The article about "deprived human dignities" is only a small glimpse of what the mentality of Sheriff Ferguson and how "his" jail is run. My family has been unfortunate enough to have some severe mental health issues and as is not unusual, have crossed paths with the law.
In 2004 my oldest son was in Benton County Jail, when I went to visit, not only was he shocked by the treatment he had received during his 1st experience of jail (severe and extreme rules, solitary confinement resulting from putting one toe-even accidentally-over a red line, food that made you vomit it was so horrible, very cold temperatures, cold showers, no soap, very rude guards), but what really upset him was the treatment of a young man with diabetes (insulin dependant since age one) in for missing a court date for a minor charge.
He was not given enough food or decent kind of food to keep his blood sugars stable and had many seizures from the dangerous drop of his blood sugars. The guards merely stood by and watched. My son, who has a younger brother with diabetes, tried to help this young man and was threatened by the guards for this. My son asked me to help somehow because his parents were out of the country and could not be reached.
I went to Sheriff Ferguson directly to address the problem (I had worked with the American Diabetes Association and JDF for years assisting families with newly diagnosed children), his response basically was that they are not required to baby these people and that they deserve whatever they get if they end up here.
After trying to reason with him, he said they would be sure he got extra snacks. They did give him extra sandwiches (if you can call that food) but the Idiot Doctor they have on staff decided that to prevent any more insulin reactions they would just STOP GIVING HIM INSULIN.
Now, if you know anything about diabetes, type one diabetics are insulin dependent, meaning, they can't live without insulin. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. When my son told me what they had done, after I recovered from the shock over the total stupidity and abuse of this doctor, I went to Ferguson to find out why they had done this.
Ferguson defended the doctors actions, asked me what relation I was to this kid to even care (I am sorry, I didn't realize you had to be related to someone to care about their basic human rights and life), and basically threw me out and told me to mind my own business.
Well, I contacted every agency I could think of, including the media, to force them to give this young man the life saving medical treatment he needed. As a result, they were forced to give him his insulin and food. Would he have died if I had not stepped in? Yes, I think so, and they would have just said, oh well, no great loss. The young mans parents, when they got back to the US, called and thanks me profusely for my intervention.
Now, my youngest son, who has diabetes, is in Benton County Jail as I write this. He suffers from severe depression and attempted suicide a few weeks ago, which landed him in patient in the hospital for almost 3 weeks. Long story short, he ended up in jail and is on suicide watch. He is isolated for 23 hrs a day, sitting in a small, very cold cell on the concrete floor with a very thin mat, naked except for a sleeveless knee length wrap (he has neuropathy in his legs that cause bad circulation and are always cold). If you didn't want to kill yourself before, this would certainly make you think about it.
The doctor will not give him the medication he was prescribed and had just started because it is expensive, so this doctor, probably the same one who took the young mans insulin away, changed to a cheap medication without consulting my sons doctor or his medical records.
Changing meds are not in the best interests of the person, only in the bottom line for the jail budget. I have to say, they are being more careful in monitoring his diabetes, which is probably a result of mine and others complaints about inmate medical care. But do they have to have such barbaric treatment in the detention of these people?
The jail receives around $40.00 a day from the government to care for the inmates, but Benton County Jail only spends about $10.00 a day for their care. Sheriff Ferguson bragged to me about this fact. They have a surplus, but that money is not meant to be for a surplus, it is given for the care of the inmates. Could they not turn the thermostat up to a more reasonable temperature? Comfort level for humans is 72 degrees, not 60 something. How about the food? Gruel at breakfast, the most horrible fatty meat sandwiches for lunch and dinner. (Inmates prepare the food-they pay very little for staff) No variation. This certainly makes for a calm jail population, now doesn't it?
Confinement is the punishment, removing their freedom of movement, but Ferguson thinks they should be deprived of basic human needs as punishment; he'll show them by golly who's the boss. You end up here; you deserve to be treated however they decide which is worse then how most animals are treated.
Besides, if they save that money they are given for the basic needs of the inmates, they can have bigger salaries and a bigger bonus at the end of the year (for their own creature comforts).
They get praise from the county for not spending the government's money they receive for inmate care and redistribute it to other county budgets. Is that legal? Is it fraudulent use of government funds? If the government has concluded it costs $40 a day for basic care, what makes Ferguson so much smarter then government annalists? Is Benton County stealing from the government? How do think taxpayers from other states feel about funding Benton County budgets? I know how I would feel.
When my son is under proper medical care and this ordeal is over, I would like to work with others in this area to improve the local government, starting with the detention center. Anyone interested in working with me to improve the Benton County government?
(I can't give my name now due to fear of retaliation to my son who is still under their control).
Benton County, Arkansas