Former Michigan inmate sues over officials' refusal to reverse colostomy
Kohchise Jackson alleges a lack of adequate replacement bags and patches resulted in him frequently leaking human waste onto himself and his bunk
By Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press
LANSING – State prison is no country club.
Especially if you have to go to the bathroom into a plastic bag attached to your side.
"Nobody wanted to be my bunkie, for sure," said former prisoner Kohchise Jackson, who alleges a lack of adequate replacement bags and patches resulted in him frequently leaking human waste onto himself and his bunk.
"I didn't get along well with others, because of the bag and the smell," which resulted in "a couple of altercations," he said.
Jackson, 37, is suing jail and prison health care providers, alleging they postponed or refused to perform a surgery to reverse his colostomy so they would not have to pay for it.
The lawsuit, filed in November, alleges a violation of Jackson's constitutional rights to due process and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.
Jackson, who was paroled in May after serving his time in prisons near Jackson and St. Louis, developed a hole in his colon in 2016, before he was sent to prison. It happened while he was in the St. Clair County Jail in Port Huron, awaiting trial on charges that included assault with a dangerous weapon and attempted unlawful imprisonment.
The condition caused fecal matter to leak into Jackson's bladder, causing extreme pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting, and the discharge of feces and intestinal gas when he urinated, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit.
Jackson alleges he saw a doctor who worked for the jail's medical contractor at least four times between July and December 2016 and complained about his condition. But each time, the doctor only diagnosed a urinary tract infection and prescribed antibiotics, the lawsuit alleges.
Only after he was rushed to the hospital emergency ward on Dec. 6, 2016, was Jackson's condition, known as a "colovesical fistula," properly diagnosed. Doctors treated Jackson with a colostomy, diverting the colon through his skin to a bag attached to his side.
The intent, according to the suit, was to reverse the operation and re-attach the upper and lower parts of Jackson's colon, once the lower part had time to heal.
Jackson says he was told he would have the reversal surgery in February 2017, but that never happened.
The jail's health care provider postponed the surgery as nonemergency, the suit alleges.
The jail's health care providers "postponed Mr. Jackson's surgery in order to pass the cost of the surgery onto the Michigan Department of Corrections," and its health care contractors, the suit alleges.
After his conviction, Jackson was transferred to the Michigan prison system on March 23, 2017.
There, prison health care contractor Corizon Health Inc. refused to reverse Jackson's colostomy because it was not "medically necessary," the suit alleges.
"Although Mr. Jackson's colostomy was intended to be temporary, it was not reversed at any point during his two-year and two-month stay in the Michigan prison system," the suit alleges.
"Mr. Jackson suffered from pain, incontinence, ostracization and humiliation for the duration of his sentence."
Jackson's colostomy was not reversed until this summer, after his parole. At that time, Medicaid paid for it, said Ann Arbor attorney Ian Cross.
Corizon filed a motion this month to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it is overly vague and does not detail how any specific actions by Corizon caused any injury Jackson may have suffered. The company also said that the Corrections Department, not Corizon, authorizes any corrective surgery.
A Corizon spokesman had no immediate comment on the suit Monday. Nor did a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, which is not a defendant in the case. St. Clair County is also not a defendant in the case.
Jackson said he knows his case will not draw universal sympathy.
"I made a mistake," he said. "I served my time and I learned my lesson." Now, "I just want to move forward and be a productive citizen."
Cross said the case raises interesting questions about what should be considered "medically necessary" for a prisoner to make a claim of deliberate indifference under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"What if this man had a life sentence?" Cross asked. "Is it fine for him just to wear a bag for the rest of his life?"
Since the vast majority of prisoners are eligible for Medicaid upon their release, postponing surgeries for prisoners does not actually save taxpayers' money, Cross said.