California prisoners given substandard medical care and families left in the dark, loved ones say

Robert J Hansen

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Prisoners of the California prison system and their loved ones.(Courtesy of family members)

The wives and the mother of prisoners within the California Prison system say that their loved ones and many others are not given proper medical care and that it fails to communicate properly with them, if at all when they get sick or taken to another hospital.

Shannon McCabe, Lorene Garza, and Moneaya Hill shared what they have and are going through trying to make sure their loved ones receive proper medical attention.

Joshua Villavicencio

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Joshua Villavicencio holding his daughter Amelia in. 2015.(Courtesy of Shannon McCabe)

Joshua A. Villavicencio is paraplegic and currently under the responsibility of the state, as he is housed in the California Health Care Facility (CHCF) in Stockton, California.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted carjacking in 2015.

Villavicencio was shot eight times in the back by the owner of the vehicle, an off-duty police officer.

“It affects every organ,” Shannon McCabe, Villavicencio’s mother said. He can’t feel hunger, his stomach doesn’t work, his bowels don’t work. Nothing works.”

Due to Joshua's health conditions, he suffers from bedsores, incontinence, respiratory issues, and many other disabilities that require around-the-clock care.

From Joshua‘s first day in prison, McCabe has had to “fight” with the California Health Care Facility in Stockton for the medical products he requires, she says.

“These are all things that should have been provided but they weren’t,“ McCabe said.

Villavicencio used to have to use the same condom catheter for a week at a time, something that should be changed daily according to McCabe.

He was also denied wheelchair pads which he has been requesting for over a year.

“It was a full-time job to get him the basic medical supplies,” McCabe said.

For the past year, Joshua has been requesting accommodation showers due to his incontinence. Joshua wakes up in his feces and or urine and then is told he can not shower until designated shower time.

“Joshua has done his due diligence by going through the CDCR grievance process. He has been denied multiple times since June of 2021. We must implement a system where the people who are housed in the California prisons are assured proper medical care,” Porche Taylor, Executive Director of Prison From The Inside Out said.

Josh has developed bedsores, pressure sores, and infection under his tail bone which had to be treated by an outside facility. His mother wasn’t notified of this for over a week.

“His mother was just notified yesterday (February 22) after having no contact with her son for about a week,” Taylor said in an email.

“How else are you going to get it (the infection)? It’s from laying in your feces all night,” McCabe said.

McCabe said her son always tries to keep a positive attitude and told her that their fight for fair medical treatment gives other prisoners hope.

“We’ve given others hope and that’s what keeps me going,” McCabe said.

Rudy Garza

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Rudy and Lorene Garza in 2019.(Courtesy of Lorene Garza)

Rudy Garza was incarcerated for about 41 years until he died on August 1, 2021.

Garza’s wife Lorene, says that CHCF didn’t notify her of her husband’s death for over a week and never communicated with her about his health in the years leading up to his death. 

Garza initially was transferred to CHCF for a bacteria that deteriorated his upper vertebrate and in 2011 found out he had hepatitis C. A couple of years later, cancerous tumors were discovered.

Lorene says that her husband was never given proper medical attention while at CHCF and on July 1, Garza was deemed terminally ill and qualified for a compassionate release, which he didn’t live to receive. 

In the final weeks of his life Lorene, trying to find out how and when she could see Rudy, called San Joaquin Hospital who told her that they couldn’t speak to her because Rudy was an inmate.

The doctors at CHCF rarely answered the phone and they were rude the few times they did.

“We’re just making him comfortable until he dies” Lorene was told by staff at CHCF.

Lorene says trying to get updates on her husband’s health was an ongoing battle.

“Trying to get an update on something is very frustrating because they never answer the phone,” Lorene said.

Rudy told Lorene that she would be able to come to sit with him before he passed but she never was given the chance.

“They never called me, never told me he was going to die. The last person I talked to told me he was doing very well but was not sure where he was going,” Lorene said. “I never got to say goodbye.”

When Garza was hospitalized, Lorene was notified by another inmate before CHCF notified her.

Lorene went to try to see him but was turned away and told she could only see him if he was in peril. This was the day before he died.

“My biggest grief is that they didn’t let us spend time together before he passed away,” Lorene said. “They knew he was dying, the doctor told me so and they wouldn’t let me sit with him or talk with him. We had no communication at all. We had no closure.”

Derrick Hill

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Derrick and Moneaya Hill.(Courtesy of Moneaya Hill)

Derrick Hill is incarcerated at the Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility California State Prison in Corcoran and started to not feel well in late April 2021.

His wife Moneaya says her husband is not receiving proper medical attention and only was able to speak to Hill one time during the month he was hospitalized.

“They don’t care. They just don’t care. You have to get on them to do anything and why should I have to do that? Moneaya said.

Hill followed protocol and submitted a request and was seen April 30, 2021. Hill returned from his appointment and explained to his wife that the nurse who treated him failed to check his vitals, take a urine sample, or do other basic medical tests that are done during a check-up. 

“He had been experiencing some pain in his chest, shortness of breath, and was completely under the weather. It bothered me to hear my husband like that,” Moneaya said. “It was horrible to hear.”

Hill told his wife that a nurse told him that he needed to drink more water and if he was having more issues to submit a new ticket. 

“This medical professional completely ignored my husband's complaints of shortness of breath and chest pain and sent him away. I don’t know what’s going on and my husband is still sick. He is getting over COVID-19 for the second time, he’s still coughing,” Moneaya said.

Hill did as the nurse instructed and submitted a new ticket and on May 1, 2021, he was seen again. 

Once again he explained his symptoms. Chest pain, shortness of breath, and discoloration to the area on his chest where he was experiencing the pain. 

“Once again the Medical staff did absolutely nothing,” Moneaya said.

A doctor told Moneaya that her husband was stable but was suffering from right-side kidney failure. Hill is also suffering from pneumonia on the left lung. 

“I asked the doctor if the breathing issues can be attributed to COVID. My husband had Covid in the past and the doctor told me it wasn’t in his charts. Hill first tested positive for Covid-19 around September 18, 2020, and has had a cough since,” Moneaya said.

Shortly after Moneaya was contacted by the prison they informed her that her husband had been transferred to an outside hospital immediately. 

“Had I never called or sent the emails advocating about my husband's health, he would've laid there and died,” Moneaya said. “It makes me wonder how many men and women have been done like this that don't have anyone to advocate for them. I do want to thank Warden Cisneros because it was her prompt response that got my husband treated.”

SB 1139

Senator Sydney Kamlager introduced a bill on February 16 that would require CDCR to inform persons named in a medical release form of the incarcerated person’s health status within 24 hours of an incarcerated person being hospitalized.

SB 1139 also would require the department to make emergency in-person contact visits and video calls available whenever an incarcerated person is hospitalized or moved to a medical unit within the facility and the incarcerated person is in critical or more serious condition.

The bill would also require CDCR facilities to have a grievance process in place by which an incarcerated person or designated person may file a formal grievance to review the failure of the department to provide health care information to specified persons, to provide notice of an incarcerated person’s hospitalization to specified persons, to provide visitation during hospitalization, or to provide medical care and treatment, as specified.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA
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