Jail staffer fired after investigation
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards says there is some merit to the claims of a former parish inmate who alleges jail staff routinely withheld his schizophrenia medication and isolated him for months at a time, but attempts to settle the case have failed.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and The Advocacy Center filed suit Monday in New Orleans federal court on behalf of 33-year-old Dennis Bargher Jr., who claims he descended into hallucinations and delirium, and lost nearly half his body weight after his January 2009 arrest on a count of having carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old girl.
Bargher is now serving an eight-year sentence at Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility in St. Gabriel, according to the suit.
Edwards said Friday he has made changes at the Tangipahoa Parish Jail, including upgrading medical staff, converting medical records to an electronic system and instituting other best practices in medical services.
The sheriff also fired jail nurse and suit co-defendant Sean Sweeney because, Edwards said, an internal investigation found that records on the medications given to Bargher were out of order, incomplete or otherwise unacceptable.
The Attorney General’s Office has since brought felony charges of forgery and injuring public records against Sweeney, Edwards said. The forgery charge stems from Sweeney’s alleged falsification of credentials following the lapse of his certification as a licensed practical nurse in 2010, Edwards said.
In addition to changes at the jail, the Sheriff’s Office offered a monetary settlement to Bargher in July, Edwards said. He did not disclose how much was offered.
“We have had no response to our overtures, but we remain willing to resolve the case,” Edwards said.
ACLU staff attorney Justin Harrison said there have been no discussions between the Sheriff’s Office and the ACLU.
However, Advocacy Center attorney Miranda Tait acknowledged the sheriff’s attempts to negotiate a resolution with the center before the ACLU got involved in the case.
“It’s fantastic to have changes made at the jail, but this suit is about Dennis Bargher and what happened to him,” Tait said Friday.
Bargher’s medications were prescribed to render him competent to stand trial, Tait said.
The jail’s policies and procedures allowed the alleged abuse to happen, and no single individual is wholly to blame, Tait said.
In addition to Edwards and Sweeney, Assistant Warden Capt. Joyce Jackson and jail doctor Reginald Goldsby are named as defendants.