Drug War Prisoners


From Behind the Wire By Richard J. Lester
Drug War Correspondent for drugwarprisoners.org

Possibly this is an inappropriate time to mention a single death in the wake of the terrorist attacks on our beloved New York and Washington, D.C.

But anyone who loses his life for no good reason suffers the finality just the same, whether he dies with a thousand others or by himself. Dead is dead.

This story is about a personal friend of mine, a prisoner like myself. However, Louis Madden was not sentenced to a barbaric amount of time like I and others were. Louie was sentenced to six months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, and he arrived here at the FCI in Safford, Arizona about four months ago. He was sick when he arrived. Everyone could see the man was in constant pain. I am at the Medical Facility every weekday for traction. Everyday Louie would go to sick call and complain. Being a guy with my nose in everybody's business, I complained of the lack of medical care on his behalf, but to no avail.

A week ago I was setting my food tray down in the food service area, when I noticed Louie pushing his tray down the line. Behind him stood the Captain and Lieutenant. Louie was staggering, as it were, pale and drooling saliva from his partly open lips. I ran up to him and took his tray. "Let me carry this for you," I suggested. Not so fast, the Captain ordered. "He can help himself, there's nothing wrong with him, he's faking."

That he was dying was apparent to every inmate.

The Captain said Louie had been exposed to every medical test known to man. That wasn't true, as she learned later.

"The Warden has him under her eye, I can assure you, Mr. Lester."

"Captain, it was just six months ago that Pop Johnson died. You remember Mr. Johnson, don't you?"

"Yes," the Captain answered.

"Well, Captain, if you recall, I told you and everyone in authority that he was coughing up blood day and night. You assured me there was nothing wrong with Pop, but of course you were wrong. Your medical department allowed Pop to die alone without his family. We all know his life could have been saved with the proper medical attention."

I don't recall what the Captain said to that, but I do remember saying that if Louie was not treated, he would be in a body bag in a couple of weeks.

"You're wrong, Mr. Lester. He will be just fine. We must make him do for himself. He's faking.

Louis Madden was taken from the Institution two days after that conversation. Today we learned that Louie was dead. The roster merely said, "Louis Madden, to hospital, dead."

Goodbye, Louie, you were a good friend. I'm sorry that your life was taken by an uncaring Bureau of Prisons of the United States of America.

Asked to explain the meaning of "the roster," Mr. Lester writes:

"The roster I was indicating was the laundry roster. Each inmate has a laundry roster, as did Mr. Madden. When he went to the hospital, the laundry withdrew his bin number and the roster indicated he was being moved from here to hospital. The next entry a couple of days later specified: from hospital to death.

"Possibly the reason they take us to the hospital is when we die in the custody of the hospital they don't have to reflect a death on their prison documents. Now that I think of it, there have been several such incidents since my incarceration, maybe a total of fifteen or inmates taken to the hospital just in time to die."

Pierre Michel, Richard Lester's cell mate, adds the following:

I am quite familiar with Louis Madden and his rapid decline. His federal case was ridiculous. A bet placed on a telephone put this old and already sick man behind a razor wire fence for six months. Even the A.U.S. Attorney recommended home incarceration, yet the judge felt that the American public would be safer if Louis were put away for six months. Upon his arrival his decline was immediate. I was present when Louis collapsed outside the chapel. It was a Sunday. He was taken to the Safford Hospital where he died three days later. I was told by Mrs. White a counselor here the day after he died.


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