Bobby Hutt died of cancer in October 2014, after suffering for over a year and being denied treatment. His sisters believe the Vermont Department of Corrections “killed him” by waiting until the cancer got so bad that Bobby’s femur snapped.
Bobby’s older sister, Melissa Dumont, and younger sister, Janice Hutt, spent most of 2014 fighting to bring Bobby home because of his illness, reported Taylor Dobbs of VPR.
After months of requesting medical care for leg pain, his Femur broke as he put on is pants in his cell in November 2013. He then found out about his diagnosis in January 2014, as an inmate at a privately owned prison in Arizona contracted by the Vermont Department of Corrections. The state was housing him at a private prison in Arizona because of a lack of available space in Vermont’s prisons.
He was sent to emergency surgery in a nearby hospital. According to a lawsuit filed by his sisters, the bone in his leg was visibly abnormal during surgery. Bobby wasn’t told about his cancer for weeks after that.
His sisters have not forgiven the unapologetic Vermont Department of Corrections officials who allowed this to happen.
“I think if they had acknowledged when he broke his femur that he had cancer and had started treatments then, he may have had more time with us,” Dumont says.
“Or if they had actually done an X-Ray when he first started complaining about his leg,” Janice Hutt adds. “You know, maybe he wouldn’t have broken it. Maybe it wouldn’t have spread, and he’d still be here.”
Dumont says Bobby called at least once a month while he was incarcerated in Arizona.
“He would complain a little bit about his leg hurt or something like that, but nothing of any concern in the beginning,” she says. “But as time went on he started complaining a lot.”
The lawsuit says that the prison staff “inexplicably ignored Mr. Hutt’s repeated requests for medical treatment.”
His sister says the prison officials said he was not really sick, he just wanted drugs.
“They said he was ‘med seeking,’” his sister Janice says. “That he didn’t really have an issue, which is concerning considering they have X-ray capabilities right at the facility. It wouldn’t have taken anything to get a quick X-ray of that area to know that something was wrong.”
Bobby Hutt was eventually transferred from the private prison in Arizona to Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vermont in March 2014, after weeks of he and his family trying to coordinate travel and accommodate Bobby’s chemotherapy.
He was not doing well, after the long delay in treatment, so he was finally allowed to go home with his family in July 2014. Unfortunately he had to go back to the hospital in September 2014, then a rehab center, and he didn’t make it home again until just before Halloween, only a few days before he died.
“He came home on a Friday and he died Monday morning,” Dumont says. “So we didn’t have him home very long when he died.”
Touchette and other Vermont corrections officials refused to comment on the specifics of Bobby’s case without permission, citing medical privacy laws.
Bobby’s sisters refused to grant the department permission to discuss the case. “While we understand the importance of hearing all sides of the issue, we don’t want our mother to have to hear DOC running my brother into the ground again, so we won’t consent to that,” Janice Hutt wrote in an email to VPR.
Bobby’s sisters tried to get some accountability through the court system. They sued the Corrections Corporation of America and Vermont’s top corrections officials in federal court, seeking a judgment that the state broke the law and $20 million in damages.
Corrections Corporation of America settled the case and made the sisters sign a non-disclosure agreement, so they can’t say how much it was settled for. Their case against state officials never got to trial.
“We were over three years into it and the attorneys needed more money from the family, and we had done all we could, and so we had to drop that suit,” Dumont says.
“Unfortunately, these private prisons have very, very, very deep pockets, and when they’re doing their budgets they actually budget for people to sue them,” Dumont says. “And they allocate a certain amount of money towards it. Well, family members, most of them, don’t have those deep pockets. You go as far as you can and that’s it.”
He was complaining of pain for many months before being allowed to seek medical care. There is no excuse for this and prisons need to be held accountable for treating people this way.
(Article By James Carter)