The Dead of Winter 

Investigation into Idaho inmate's death at private prison in Eagle Pass, Texas: "Medical response is where the problem lies."

click to enlarge Kim Taylor is buried in Unit 53 of the Wasatch Lawn section of Fielding Memorial Park Cemetery in Idaho Falls.

John Roark, Idaho Falls Post Register

Kim Taylor is buried in Unit 53 of the Wasatch Lawn section of Fielding Memorial Park Cemetery in Idaho Falls.

click to enlarge JOHN ROARK, IDAHO FALLS POST REGISTER
  • John Roark, Idaho Falls Post Register

The body of Kim Taylor lies in a snow-covered grave in Fielding Memorial Park Cemetery in Idaho Falls. He was laid to rest there six days after dying at Eagle Pass Correctional Facility, a private prison near the U.S.-Mexico border where 700 Idaho inmates, including Taylor, were sent for incarceration. A spokesman for the Idaho Department of Correction said there was no indication of foul play, and an official incident report from the Maverick County [Texas] Sheriff's Office concluded that Taylor, 56, "died of natural causes." But there was nothing natural about the events leading up to Taylor's death, which began Dec. 31, when Taylor complained of a sore throat that escalated to a fever of 101.3 degrees the next day, followed by complaints of dizziness and filled lungs in days after.

The crisis climaxed just past midnight on Jan. 6, when Taylor's cellmates told prison officers that they were concerned about Taylor, who was disoriented and reported to be "pale, diaphoretic and incoherent." Inmates later told Idaho investigators, part of a Serious Incident Review team, "When the nurse got here, she showed up with nothing and she didn't know what to do."

Findings in the Serious Incident Review report on Taylor's death, ordered by IDOC, include:

• "Sick call/triage/follow up is not being done in a consistently timely manner."

• "There appears to be a deficit in critical thinking skills as evidenced by the inmate demonstrating worsening symptoms and not being placed in observation or being frequently assessed until symptoms improved."

•"Nursing staff failed to bring emergency bag/equipment to scene when attending the inmate at bedside. She left and returned with a wheelchair but still did not bring emergency bag with her."

• "Oxygenation of the inmate was critical but did not occur as there was no manual ventilation bag and the nurse was unaware of the proper way to use the oxygen tank and no mouth-to-mouth was initiated."

Investigators added that, "Unless [the nurse] can be given some immediate additional training and education, she should be removed from her position." It was also learned that there were supposed to be two members of medical staff on overnight shifts, but "due to short staff" at the facility, the nurse attending to Taylor was there alone. "An inexperienced nurse should not be working by herself on night shift," the SIR report said.

According to the report, the nurse wheeled Taylor "to a holding room instead of the room where all the emergency medical equipment was located. She was unable to operate the oxygen tank; in addition, she did not have a manual ventilation bag, nor did she give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She also began CPR on Taylor when he still had a pulse. When she was asked why she did not utilize the AED [defibrillator], she said the officers did not know where it was."

Shortly thereafter, Taylor was rushed from the private prison to a local hospital, and according to a five-sentence incident report filed by the Maverick County Sheriff Office, which has jurisdiction over the border town, "While at E.R. [Taylor] passed away from natural causes."

"Obviously, something went wrong," said Craig Taylor, the older brother of inmate Kim Taylor. "Somebody wasn't doing their job. When I read the report, everyone wants to pick on the nurse. But I look at the warden."

Indeed, the SIR report indicates that Eagle Pass Correctional Facility Warden Waymon Barry, pointing to a cause of death of "natural causes," never requested an autopsy. When BW asked why the warden didn't request an autopsy, a spokeswoman from GEO Group, the owner-operator of the private prison, said, "Before an autopsy could be ordered by the Eagle Pass Facility, next of kin had taken custody of [Kim Taylor's] remains."

But Taylor's brother said an autopsy should definitely have been performed.

"A prisoner died, yet somehow they forgot such an important priority," he told BW.

In the wake of the SIR report, IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray told BW that Idaho has "urged the facility's warden to immediately request an autopsy following any future inmate death. The warden has indicated he will do so."

Meanwhile, questions surrounding the death of Kim Taylor are also beginning to mount among Idaho prisoners at the Eagle Pass prison.

"There are some frustrations about the facility's inability to respond appropriately to his medical issue," inmate Patrick Irving told Boise Weekly. "There are some concerns and frustrations from the staff over that situation as well. A correction officer has made an effort to tell me that he was not alone in being upset over how things were handled."

Meanwhile, Craig Taylor said he was still recovering from what he read in the SIR report detailing his brother's spiral toward death.

"There were severe management errors," he said. "I think I may begin talking to attorneys for possible legal action regarding all of this."

BW asked the GEO Group if any change in procedures had been instituted at Eagle Pass in the wake of Kim Taylor's death.

"Eagle Pass regularly evaluates its processes, procedures and training in an effort to continuously improve the delivery of services and operational efficiency," read an official statement from GEO.

Idaho officials were more detailed with their own follow-up to Taylor's death.

"IDOC will soon send a team to Eagle Pass to conduct a comprehensive audit of the facility's medical procedures," said Ray. "We take seriously our obligation to provide appropriate medical care those who are in our custody, and we hold our partners to the same standards."

Just before Christmas 2018, Kim Taylor penned a letter to his brother Craig that read, "Just a quick note to let you know I am still here."

About two weeks later, Kim Taylor would return to Idaho—more specifically to the Fielding Memorial Park Cemetery.

click to enlarge JOHN ROARK, IDAHO FALLS POST REGISTER
  • John Roark, Idaho Falls Post Register

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