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Long Story Short: Lawton inmate dies after private prison staff refused care, lawsuit claims

Oklahoma Watch, Nov. 22, 2023

After an X-ray revealed a life-threatening injury, nurses, a doctor and prison guards locked Justin Barrientos in a cell where he suffered for hours without care and lay dead for more than 90 minutes before anyone noticed.

Following Barrientos’ January death, a Department of Corrections investigator Tommy Stranahan recommended manslaughter charges against Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility staff, according to a report provided to the Comanche County County District Attorney. Stranahan also found evidence of misdemeanor violations of neglect, refusal of duties and obstructing an investigation, according to the report.

Almost 10 months after his death, no charges have been filed, spurring Barrientos’ mother to seek justice in court.

Linda Gray is suing The GEO Group, the publicly traded company that operates Oklahoma’s lone private prison, for the death of her son, according to a claim filed today in federal court. The federal lawsuit also names a prison doctor and nurse, correction officers, Express Mobile Diagnostics, which provides X-ray diagnostics to the prison, and a radiologist claiming inadequate medical care, cruel and unusual punishment, negligence and emotional distress.

“My son wasn’t a throw-away,” Gray said. “The way he died, the suffering and the isolation he went through, and the callousness of the people who were supposed to take care of him, all of that could have been prevented. I wouldn’t want anyone else’s son to suffer like my son suffered.”

Barrientos, 31, was serving 15 years for robbery and possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, according to court records.

For nearly four days in January, Barrientos coughed, vomited, seized, passed out and defecated on himself in a cell without help from medical staff.

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