Severely beaten Red Onion State Prison inmate Kawaski Bass could have arrived in an emergency room just beyond Virginia’s state line in less than two hours.
Instead, the state’s jurisdiction-based policy on hospital care made sure his battered and bruised body lay in the back of an ambulance for a nearly four-hour ride on Sept. 6.
“It amazed me to know they took him so far … despite other hospitals being in the area,” said Bass’ sister, Tarsha Bass.
Guards at the Pound-based prison found the inmate unconscious in his cell and initially had an ambulance rush him to the nearby Dickenson Community Hospital. But the devastating head injuries and internal bleeding were too much for the local medical center to handle.
So, doctors wheeled Kawaski Bass back into the ambulance and sent him to what is known as a Level I trauma care center - a hospital staffed night and day to tackle the most debilitating injuries.
A map shows the nearest such hospital to be Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., roughly 75 miles away.
Yet the ambulance was sent to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Va., roughly 197 miles away. That way, guards could maintain their custody over the inmate.
“The Virginia prison system stipulates that we cannot transport their prisoners across state lines,” said Mountain States Hospital spokeswoman Teresa Hicks, whose company runs both the Dickenson and Kingsport hospitals.
Kawaski Bass died hours after arriving at the Roanoke hospital in the early morning of Sept. 7.
Bass would have had a handful of treatment options if the state line was not an issue.
Paramedics could have rushed him the 86 miles to Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City, Tenn. It’s also a Level I trauma center and requires half the travel time as the trek to Roanoke.
Even closer, at 78 miles, is Bristol Regional Medical Center, considered a Level II trauma center because it lacks some round-the-clock surgical specialists, according to the American College of Surgeons, which ranks trauma centers. Still, the Bristol hospital is staffed with trauma surgeons to handle the worst injuries day and night.
“It sort of makes sense that you would want to be treated as soon as possible,” said Dr. Renan Castillo, of the John Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy.
Bass’ situation seems to have revolved around what the medical community calls the Golden Hour of trauma care – the theory that a patient’s greatest chance of survival is based on receiving the right surgical treatment within the first hour.
But it’s an unproven theory.
“There are a lot of surgeons that definitely believe in the Golden Hour,” Castillo said. “It’s definitely true that you’re racing against the clock on some level.”
Prison guards found Bass on the floor of his cell around 1 p.m. and prison medical staff performed CPR on him for nearly 60 minutes before finding a pulse, sister Tarsha Bass said.
The medical staff hooked Kawaski Bass to a respirator to help him breathe, the sister said, and shipped him by ambulance to the community hospital across the county line in the town of Clintwood. The American College of Surgeons does not rate the hospital as a trauma-care center.
Bass could have been transported to Roanoke by helicopter, which the Virginia State Police said is usually an hour-long flight. An ongoing rain storm made helicopter transport too dangerous, the Virginia Department of Corrections confirmed, and so the trip was done by ambulance.
The Virginia State Police covers parts of Southwest Virginia with an Abingdon-based Med Flight helicopter and confirmed that it has ferried state prison inmates to Roanoke.
On a clear night, the helicopter could have departed the community hospital in Clintwood and reached the Roanoke hospital within the Golden Hour.
It could also reach the Johnson City Hospital in 15 minutes.
“I think the policy needs to be changed,” Tarsha Bass said of the state-line rule.
“When it’s a matter of life and death … they should be able to bend it a little.”
Though parts of the medical community consider the clock to be a dangerous foe, Virginia law does not.
“There’s nothing that says that people need to be sent to the closest hospital,” said Michael D. Berg, regulation and compliance manager with the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.
In fact, Berg noted that the decision on where to send patients is usually left to the attending physician.
Hospital location becomes a legal factor only when it comes to Virginia’s prison inmates.
“It is a jurisdictional issue,” DOC spokesman Larry Traylor said in an email. “Our authority does not extend beyond the border of Virginia unless there is a specific prior agreement or extradition order of some type.”
Simply put, the DOC would lose custody of an inmate as soon as the ambulance or helicopter crossed beyond Virginia’s state line. An out-of-state judge would have to sign an extradition order just so Virginia prisons could retain custody all throughout the hospital stay and even past the eventual discharge.
Tarsha Bass, a licensed practical nurse from Hampton, arrived at the Roanoke hospital with her mother late at night.
A doctor told them that brain swelling and massive abdominal bleeding were the leading causes of her brother’s trauma.
At one point, hospital staff suggested that Kawaski Bass might undergo surgery to relieve the pressure on his swelling brain, the sister said.
He died soon after mother and sister arrived at the hospital. He was never wheeled into an operating room.
Kawaski Bass is the second of two inmates killed over the past 19 months inside Red Onion, a maximum security prison located near the Kentucky border.
The first happened July 28, 2010, when Robert C. Gleason followed through on a threat to kill again unless sentenced to death for slaying an inmate more than a year earlier. Gleason is now on Death Row awaiting a Virginia Supreme Court review of two death sentences.
With Bass, corrections officials and investigators refuse to confirm the cause of injuries or even a suspect because the investigation is ongoing.
The Bristol Herald Courier has learned that John Keyvann Watson, 31, is suspected of the altercation that left Bass, 31, unconscious in his prison cell.
Watson is serving 103 years for two counts of second-degree murder that stem from a 2002 attack in Richmond, court records show. The Virginia Department of Corrections has tentatively set his good-time release date for Sept. 7, 2100.
Kawaski Bass was serving a 65-year sentence for 1998 and 1999 convictions of robbery, use of a firearm, carjacking, assault and battery, and conspiracy in several Virginia counties and had a good-time release date of Jan. 21, 2061. ..Source.. by Michael Owens | Bristol Herald Courier
Mom sues state over son’s death at Virginia prison
BRISTOL, Va. (AP) — Officers ignored an inmate’s concerns that a prison gang was out to kill him and then let his cries for help go unanswered as he was beaten to death in his cell, the inmate’s mother claims in a lawsuit against the state and prison officials.
The lawsuit, filed last month in Hampton, claims officers at Red Onion State Prison didn’t respond to Kawaski Bass’ pleas for help. It also says the state failed to adequately train or supervise employees responsible for maintaining safety within the housing unit where Bass was attacked.
Bass, 32, was severely beaten in his cell on Sept. 6, 2011. He was pronounced dead hours later after a 200-mile ride from the prison in Pound to a Roanoke hospital.
He was “heard by other inmates within the housing unit screaming for assistance for several minutes and none of the corrections officers . responded to his pleas for help,” reads the lawsuit, filed by Richmond attorney Horace F. Hunter.
Virginia State Police have not charged Bass’ cellmate, John Keyvann Watson, 32. Bass has claimed he beat Bass because he was defending against a sexual assault.
Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor; that it is department policy not to comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit claims Bass told officers that members of the Bloods prison gang had indicated they planned to kill him. It says Bass was placed in a cell with Watson, who was a known associate of the Bloods.
Watson is serving 103 years for two counts of second-degree murder. Bass was serving a 65-year sentence for robbery, carjacking, assault and other charges.
The mother of another inmate, Aaron Cooper, also has given notice that she plans to sue the state and Red Onion officials over the death of her son at the prison in 2010.
Cooper was strangled to death by inmate Robert Gleason through a separate cage on the outdoor recreation yard. Gleason already had killed another inmate and vowed to continue killing unless he was given the death penalty.
Cooper’s mother gave notice that she may file a civil lawsuit because the prison “failed to properly segregate and monitor violent and dangerous criminals.”
Gleason was sentenced to death in September. ..Source..