Thursday, December 12, 2013
WINDHAM — The father of an inmate who died Wednesday in the Maine Correctional Center in Windham said the death raises questions about the quality of medical care his diabetic son was getting in the prison.
The Department of Corrections issued a release late Wednesday that said Garrett Brewer, 35, of Presque Isle died around 1:30 p.m. in his cell.
Brewer had served about 66 days of a nine-month sentence for trafficking drugs, said Scott Fish, spokesman for the department. He said the prison followed protocol by contacting the Attorney General's Office, the Medical Examiner's Office and the state police, who will investigate Brewer's death.
Fish would not provide additional details, nor would Associate Corrections Commissioner Jody Breton.
Brewer's father, Thomas Brewer of Presque Isle, said Wednesday night that police told him his son went into shock and died in his cell.
"His roommate started screaming like a banshee. (Garrett) was in insulin shock, and they couldn't pull him out of it," said Brewer.
He said police notified him about his son's death at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, and he saw it on the TV news an hour later.
In a telephone interview, Brewer said he had been worried about his son's health since he was sentenced in Aroostook County Superior Court for two counts of trafficking methamphetamine.
He said his son was diagnosed with diabetes when he was in his early teens. His recommended treatment consisted of three daily insulin injections and extensive exercise.
Brewer said his son sent him letters detailing his concerns, saying the prison's medical staff had changed his medication dosages and limited his exercise to one hour a day.
"When he was active, he was healthy," Brewer said.
Breton gave a telephone briefing Wednesday to the co-chairs of the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick. They said the committee will wait for the outcome of the state police investigation before responding.
"Given his age, his death does raise some concerns," said Dion, a former Cumberland County sheriff. "But right now we are pretty much in the 'what happened?' stage."
Breton told the legislators that Brewer's death does not appear to be suspicious and that he died in his cell. She said it does not appear that Brewer committed suicide.
"If an inmate dies in their cell, there has got to be a reason," said Gerzofsky, who has served on the Criminal Justice Committee for 13 years. "Whenever an inmate dies in their cell it's serious because they are in our custody."
Gerzofsky said the state contracts out for medical services, but he did not immediately know the name of the contractor for state correctional facilities.
"If someone wasn't being treated properly, I want to know," Gerzofsky said.
Last week, the Criminal Justice Committee questioned Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte about in incident in the Maine Correctional Center in 2010, in which a restrained inmate was pepper-sprayed.
Dion said the committee would track the department's response to the incident.
For Judy Garvey, Wednesday's death stirred memories of another young inmate who died in his cell, in March 2011.
Garvey, co-coordinator for the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, said Ryan Allan Calor, 29, of Northfield was found dead in his cell during a morning count of prisoners at the minimum-security state prison in Warren.
An autopsy revealed that Calor, who was serving a three-year sentence for burglary, died from pneumonia. Garvey said his death most likely could have been prevented.
"Prisoners are not being given the same level of treatment that they would be getting if they were on the outside," she said.
Thomas Brewer said his son grew up in Caribou and was an outdoorsman who loved to fish and hunt. He graduated from Presque Isle High School in 1998, according to his Facebook page.
One of the hardest things his family had to do on Wednesday was let his 13-year-old daughter know about her father's death.
Brewer said he plans to consult with an attorney to review his options.
"They got care of him and he didn't last," he said. "This should never have happened. My boy should have come back to me. He would have had better odds going to war."
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: