Women's Prison in Fluvanna County Faces Abuse Allegations, Class Action Lawsuit

September 19, 2013

Taylor Gilmer has four years left on her prison sentence at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Fluvanna County, but her family fears she won't live to see the day she can walk out a free woman.

"How bad will she be by then, if she even lives?" questions Gilmer's mom, Tina. "The outlook is not so good."

Gilmer was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was seven years old. The disease hadn't given her any trouble until she began serving time at FCCW.

In 2012, Gilmer entered an Alford plea to one count of conspiring to commit a felony and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She was transferred to FCCW, in part of because of her health conditions.

But Gilmer says the medical staff at the prison has been negligent in her treatment, confusing her Type 1 diabetes for Type 2 diabetes. She also says prison personnel forbid her from regularly checking her blood sugar levels. As a result, the 22-year-old says she is losing her vision and her feet are turning purple.

"I'm really scared," said her mom, Tina. "She cries to me on the phone...she says 'I'm losing my vision'. She's afraid she's going to lose her feet."

Gilmer is one of about 1200 women incarcerated at FCCW hoping to join the class action lawsuit against the prison and its health care provider, citing cruel and unusual punishment.

"The standard is, if your health needs are not being met and your health is deteriorating or if it's leading to death-there have been a number of deaths at Fluvanna since we've been monitoring the situation-then it violates the 8th amendment," said Abigail Turner, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the women. "We are very concerned. The claims of the women who appear in the lawsuit are very serious medical claims."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville are women ranging in age between 29 and 60 years old, suffering from serious chronic health conditions and incarcerated at FCCW. Employees of the Virginia Department of Corrections named in the lawsuit include the Director, Harold W. Clarke, the Chief of Corrections Operations, A. David Robinson, and the Director of Health Services, Frederick Schilling. The lawsuit also names the warden of FCCW, Phyllis A. Baskerville, and the medical director, Paul C. Ohai.

Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. is another defendant named in the lawsuit. Armor is the for-profit corporation based in Miami, Florida responsible for providing health care services to FCCW and dozens of other prisons in Virginia. In May, CBS19 learned the Virginia Department of Corrections parted ways with Armor, signing a new contract with another health care provider called Corizon Correctional Health Care.

But inmates and attorneys with LAJC don't take it as a sign of things improving and Corizon has been added to the lawsuit as a defendant.

"My fear is that they will get a lot worse," Turner said. "Those with chronic conditions will be untreated...and they might die. There have been enough deaths."

Tina Gilmer prays her daughter doesn't succumb to a similar fate, and hopes conditions improve inside the prison so that her daughter can survive to see her own young daughter grow up.

"I'm hoping they are going to force them to take care of the inmates because it's not right what they are getting away with."

CBS19 conducted an interview with Taylor Gilmer in FCCW in April. Shortly after the initial interview, Virginia's Department of Corrections changed it's policy, banning members of the media from recording interviews with inmates at FCCW.

Both Corizon and Armor have filed motions to have the case dismissed. A trial was originally scheduled for October of this year, but has been pushed back to May of 2014.

A spokesperson for Armor deferred any comments on the case to FCCW. Officials with the Department of Corrections declined an interview, citing ongoing litigation.

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