By GEOFF DAVIDIAN
© 2002 MilwaukeePress.Net
MILWAUKEE -- A woman who spent 105 days in jail for contempt of court says that nurses at the Milwaukee County House of Correction treated the skin cancer on her face with Band-Aids and hydrocortisone for 2 ½ months and finally destroyed records of her requests to be treated.
Kathy A. Stover had lesions
from April through July, she says, and continually pressed the medical staff to
test for cancer the facial sores that kept cracking open and bleeding.
“I told them I had
cancer in my family, but they said, ‘No, it can’t be. It’s not
infected,’” she tells us.
In the end it was not the
skill of the staff but an article in Family Circle magazine describing
skin cancer symptoms that convinced nurses that her lesions might be cancerous.
Stover, a lawyer admitted to
practice in Kansas and Missouri, was jailed from April 19 to July 30 for
refusing to give her adversaries in a civil suit – Michael
Jahnz (former lead singer to Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon), and
Jahnz’s wife Jennifer -- control of computers and files she says are evidence
in a separate breach of contract suit involving the same parties.
Circuit Judge David A. Hasher
ordered her release after he decided the first case in favor of the Jahnzes,
citing lack of further jurisdiction to keep her in jail, according to her
lawyer, Robert Sutton.
Among other concerns, Stover
claims that she was never given painkillers prescribed by the St. Luke’s
surgeon who removed the cancer and when she got back to the House of Correction
after the off-site surgery she was put in the “infirmary,” which she said
was a filthy solitary cell dubbed “the hole” by other inmates.
She was returned to her
regular quarters several hours after she complained of human feces in the sink.
In a meeting with Stover on
Tuesday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said he would investigate the
allegations. His office confirmed Wednesday that it had made copies of her
medical records and would make them available under the state’s open records
law. The Sheriff’s Office encouraged her to file a written complaint, Stover
None of the allegations has
yet been independently verified, but the medical records will give Clarke reason
to give or withhold credence to Stover’s allegations that requests to see
nurses were destroyed. Because women in the House of Correction cannot see a
nurse unless they fill out a request form, and since each visit to a nurse
results in a $2.50 debit every time a request is granted, there must be records
of requests to see a nurse corresponding to every debit and medical entry. If
not, either the requests were destroyed or the commissary charges were
In interviews in June, Clarke
told us he favored allowing inmates with resources to be treated by their own
doctor. But Stover says that when she asked to see her doctor after the biopsy
revealed her lesions were cancerous the nurse refused to allow her to see a
private physician. As a result, she was treated by a doctor she did not choose,
she said, and all at taxpayer expense.
In an exclusive interview,
Stover said that House of Correction employees threatened that inmate mail would
be “misplaced” if they were unruly, the all-male nursing staff was
insensitive to unique female medical and hygiene needs and medical files were
frequently lost or misplaced.
“You’re going to have
lawsuit after lawsuit,” she says. “You have the poorest women in a facility
that was built by men, for men and run by men.”
She said that after her
surgery she vomited for more than a week but it was not learned until she went
to a private doctor after her release that she had suffered from a perforated
esophagus, but the House of Correction would not release her medical files, she
complained to Clarke.
Clarke is cleaning up for
former Sheriff Lev Baldwin, who entered into a consent decree with plaintiffs in
a class-action suit about inmate conditions and treatment, but who bailed out
under the terms of the controversial county pension plan.
Stover says she has notes,
including dates, times and names, to help Clarke straighten out conditions at
the House of Correction.
And she clearly has a reason for wanting conditions improved. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Kremers has set a hearing for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 27 to hear arguments by Jahnz’s lawyer that Stover should face punitive sanctions under the criminal code for refusing to abide by an order to turn her computers over to Jahnz and his lawyer. At that hearing, a prosecutor from District Attorney E. Michael McCann’s office will be asked to decide whether probable cause exists to bring criminal charges, which could send Stover back to House of Correction.