***

Ellin Schott was no stranger to Greensboro police Officer AP Costigliola, who had also issued her second citation for panhandling without a license in the space of 18 days. This was her third violation, and he also charged her with soliciting in a travel lane when he arrested her at 1:30 p.m. that Friday, Aug. 21, 2015.

Magistrate C. Jenkins set Schott’s bond at $1,000, and scheduled her court date for 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 28 in Guilford County Court. Jenkins noted on a court document justifying the imposition of a secured bond that Schott had been arrested on two charges, and had another pending case for the same charge. The magistrate added a handwritten note: “Defendant states she will continue to solicit alms/beg for money to get money to support her son’s heroin addiction.”

It would have been impossible for Ellin to make bail on her own: An affidavit of indigency for a previous arrest in March listed her entire assets as $25 in a bank account and her 2013 Toyota Corolla, which was valued at $13,000.

Ellin Schott's jail booking photo
Ellin Schott’s jail booking photo

And Michael, her ex-husband, wasn’t inclined to come to the rescue.

After her booking at the Greensboro Jail Central, Michael recalls Ellin calling him “multiple times” to try to get him to post bail.

“I’ll tell you flat out: I didn’t approve of her panhandling, but she was bound and determined she was gonna do it,” Michael Schott said. His reasons were manifold: He continued to worry that Ellin was enabling Hunter’s addiction. And he thought that letting her stay in jail would make a point to her, and prod her to get her life together.

“Like most people, I assumed — and this is a biggie — I assumed she was safe,” Michael reflected. “There’s less likelihood of something happening to her when she’s in custody than when she’s out on a damn street corner.”

[pullquote]”Nurse Crouch reported [that Ellin] appeared to be having multiple seizures and was going in and out of them. She was periodically cognizant, and would speak and respond to questions. She advised Nurse Whiteside that she took seizure medication and had not received it since coming into detention.” — medical examiner’s report[/pullquote]Ellin’s health deteriorated almost immediately in jail.

Correct Care Solutions, a private company based in Murfreesboro, Tenn., holds a contract with Guilford County to provide health services to inmates. Detention notes, as reflected in a written summary by Medical Examiner Jacqueline Perkins, a registered nurse in the forensic nursing department at Cone Hospital, indicate that Ellin told staff at the jail “that she had seizures, nerve damage, and was disabled.” The detention notes also recorded that she took Keppra and Gabapentin, which are anti-seizure medications. On Saturday, the second day of her confinement, she complained of “leg pains and muscle spasms.” Later that day, the notes indicate she was observed shaking and trembling under her blanket. According to Perkins’ written summary, Schott told a nurse that she was on medication, to which he responded that he would need to talk to a doctor and all he could give her in the meantime was Tylenol.

The pain continued into Sunday with reports indicating that Ellin “continues to moan and call for help.”

Ellin’s final episode of distress at the jail, logged at 3 a.m. on Monday, is worth quoting directly from the medical examiner’s summary:

“On 8/24/15 0300 (still in jail), two officers heard heavy breathing in Ellin’s room/cell. They saw she was perspiring and breathing rapidly. Called several people to include Nurse Karen Crouch, who called EMS and reported inmate had seizure. Nurse Crouch reported [that Ellin] appeared to be having multiple seizures and was going in and out of them. She was periodically cognizant, and would speak and respond to questions. She advised Nurse Whiteside that she took seizure medication and had not received it since coming into detention.”

The seizures continued and Ellin was sweating heavily when she arrived at the emergency room at Cone Hospital. Although she responded well to a dose of Keppra, her condition worsened on her second day in the hospital. Her family made the decision to remove Ellin from mechanical respiration and life support that night, Michael said, but Cone Hospital agreed to keep her on life support until the next day at noon so he could contact the rest of her family to be with her when she passed away.

Almost a month later, Perkins’ investigation concluded that the immediate cause of Ellin Schott’s death was “complications of prolonged seizure activity.”

***

Ellin Schott’s death two days after being received from Greensboro Jail Central is only the latest example of a troubled history of poor medical care for inmates in the Triad’s two biggest jails, both currently under Correct Care Solutions as well as a previous healthcare provider.

Bryan O’Neil Simmons, a 36-year-old inmate who was serving a 90-day sentence on a parole violation, collapsed while being escorted to the medical ward, according to an account by US District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder. Simmons “went into cardiac arrest caused by internal bleeding from a perforated ulcer,” according to Schroeder. Simmons’ family describes his current condition as “a permanent vegetative state.”

Simmons’ parents allege that they received a phone call from another inmate at the jail on the day before their son’s heart attack indicating that he had collapsed on the floor and urinated on himself. They said they immediately drove to the jail and asked to see their son, but were reassured that he was okay. They didn’t think their son would be asking to be taken to the hospital unless his condition was serious, considering that he was only two days away from release, and pleaded with staff, to no avail.

Simmons’ family alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court in August 2014 that Corizon had a policy or custom “to outright deny medical treatment or be deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs” of inmates at the jail, and that the policy caused Simmons’ current medical condition. Along with Corizon, Sheriff BJ Barnes and Guilford County are defendants in the suit.

“While in the cell and as recorded on video, Simmons vomited blood repeatedly and begged the Guilford County detention officers and the nursing staff of Corizon (who provided health services to the jail) to allow him to go to the hospital,” the complaint alleges. “Simmons repeatedly told the jail staff and nurses that ‘he was bleeding on the inside’ and he could feel the blood ‘churning’ in his stomach. He is seen on the video pleading for help and drawing the word ‘HELP’ and ‘9-1-1” in the air with his finger.’ On the video, one Corizon nurse identifies Simmons’ blood on the floor as from the ‘gastric’ and says ‘ulcer probably.’”

Corizon has denied that its employees acted with deliberate indifference.

Earlier this year, Sheriff Barnes and Guilford County filed a counter-claim against Corizon for breach of contract. The company claimed in response that the county and the sheriff owe Corizon “a contractual duty to indemnify and defend them” from claims made by the plaintiffs that arise from acts or omissions of the detention staff.

Correct Care Solutions, which assumed responsibility for inmate health services at neighboring Forsyth County jail in September 2012, has also presided over its share of tragedies.

Dino Vann Nixon, 55, died in the Forsyth County jail after 25 days in confinement while awaiting trial on heroin trafficking charges. Nixon’s family alleges in a lawsuit against Correct Care Solutions and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office that medical staff at the jail refused to give him Xanax, a prescribed anti-anxiety medication that is also known as benzodiazepine, leading directly to his death. A report by the local medical examiner lends credence to the claim, finding that his death “was related to withdrawal from benzodiazepines.”

Contrary to the findings of the medical examiner, Correct Care Solutions denies that Nixon’s death was related to withdrawal from benzodiazepines. Both the healthcare company and the county deny that they could have taken steps to prevent Nixon from experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, while maintaining that he received appropriate medical care in the jail.

Meanwhile, in 2014 Guilford County dropped Corizon as a provider, and awarded its contract for inmate healthcare to Correct Care Solutions. Maj. Chuck Williamson, commander of court bureau services for Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, said the switch was not prompted by any particular concern about the quality of care provided to inmates by Corizon, but said the contract simply expired. Williamson said Correct Care Solutions was selected to provide medical services to inmates in the county’s three detention facilities, which house an average of 19,000 inmates per year, largely on the strength of its references.

Less than three months after Correct Care Solutions took over the contract for inmate health services in Guilford County, another inmate at the jail in neighboring Forsyth experienced a tragedy.

Jen McCormack, 31, died at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem less than a week after a 16-day stay in the Forsyth County jail. McCormack was pregnant, in withdrawal from opioids and had recently attempted suicide when she was booked into the jail on felony charges of prescription drug fraud. Her mother told Triad City Beat that she had turned over McCormack’s Suboxone, a prescribed opioid treatment medication, to medical staff at the jail, but it’s not clear whether it was ever administered to her because Correct Care Solutions has declined to comment on the matter. McCormack’s mother also tried to give the medical staff her daughter’s prescribed Xanax, but said the staff refused to accept it.

During her confinement, McCormack experienced several falls and episodes of urinary incontinence. The medical examiner indicated that McCormack died from dehydration — a finding that dovetails with a theory promoted by medical staff that she was staging a hunger strike. The medical examiner acknowledged that he had not been aware of internal reports indicating that McCormack had been experiencing urinary incontinence.    

***

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I knew Ellin Schott and her son Hunter very well. I was expecting to find an article about how a person incarcerated in the Guilford County Jail would suddenly die while in their custody. I was expecting perhaps some sort of debate on the idea of jailing people for panhandling.

    This “story” is nothing more than dredged up personal family business made public for no discernible reason. I’m guessing it’s because she had a drug problem or became homeless that you feel you have some sort of license to take their private affairs, publish them, and pass it off as journalism.

    Shame on you.

    • If her family was against this article and its honesty it wouldn’t have been written. The Jennifer McCormack mentioned in this article was a close friend of mine. Jordan has written very critical, in depth, and well reasearched articles about what happend to her under the same company’s care. Jordan Green is a good man who really cares about what happens to people in his community. He and Eric report on the lives people lead to prove that anyone can become addicted and end up in desperate situations. They are pointing out that another person tragically lost their life due to indifference and greed in a broken system. Removing the stigma that is attached to addiction will only help those afflicted to seek help. Calling it “personal family business” sounds as if there should be shame around what happened, and there shouldn’t be. I send my thoughts and love to her friends, and family, and thank them for not letting her death be swept under the rug by this horrible “healthcare” provider. It takes great strength to be so open. Correct Care Solutions and their employers need to be held accountable.

      • I knew her personally, you should be fucking ashamed at yourself for writing this article. your making her sound bad, she had a problem.but that doesn’t mean it needs to made public.take this shit, down even her son hunter brown is horrified by this remove it if you have any dam heart in your bloody body

        • and sorry I meant this in general to this article, not to you.somehow can’t delete it and just post a normal comment on it

  2. I disagree with the lack of discretion used in naming and including a photo of an underage son and his already struggling sibling if their consent was not first obtained. I believe that you can illustrate the tragidty that is (opiate) addiction and issues of mental health in a truthful yet more compassionate way by further highlighting the need for systems within the prison that shoulder the blame as opposed to the individual and in her case the legacy that includes her family. Also would be helpful to include a couple of resources within our community that can assist those who might benefit from or have loved ones needing services dealing with addictions and/ or issues of mental health : Alcohol and Drug Services- 301 E. Washington St. (336) 333-6860, GSO Metro Treatment Center- (336) 273.9611, The Ringer Center- (336) 379.7146 – because the only shame in getting help is not getting help!

  3. Just for further reference: I can confirm personally that I, my father, and my grandmother all knew and actively consented to having this segment published. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I severely doubt they were uninformed.

  4. Glad to hear that Jacob may your mother rest in peace and you and your surviving family members find peace in your own time.

  5. We do our best at trying to help family or friends. But we can only do so much. You can not help those that want help themselves. They have got to help themselves first. And she was doing what see could by panhandling. Divorce is a harsh situation. And can put a lot of people on the street. And having medical problems doesn’t help. It is a sad day though when you are arrested for such a petty issue. All that it should have been was a fine. Not jail time that is so petty of the City of Greensboro. She did have to die. If the caregivers had listened to her and done their better. She would be alive today and back with her ex-husband.

  6. The Greensboro Police Department’s narrow window for dishonesty and corruption is, @ this point, about three years.

  7. I am here son. The oldest. As happy as i am to have this public, you shouldnt have added that my step dad and mom were sexaully active and not painted my mom as some junkie. She wasent. She was a victim of this opiate epidemic that doctors and big pharam caused. Yes ive dealt with my own drug addiction but the article doesnt talk about my mom side of the faimley abandoning her. The article doesnt talk about me having to provide for my mom and grand mother because they had no food and no help. This doesnt talk about my grandmother letting me stay in HER HOUSE. My uncle owned it but for as long as ive been alive my grand mother lived there. My mom died derictly due to the jail not giveing her the kepra that she was prescribed and they failed to keep her safe. Like the question the writer of this article stated. Why wasent she taken to the hospital?!?! My mom was a amazing person who taufht me love,compassion and to never give up on the people you loved. Theres so much more that needs to be added. I also didnt give permission for my picture being used nor ever contacted about this article. They didnt even try to reach out to me or get a comment. I will be contacting you guys!!!

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