Jailed on a shoplifting charge, Omaha resident Maureen Henderson was given the standard-issue neon-orange garb at the Douglas County Jail: V-neck, pants, socks and shower shoes.
Only one problem: The shower shoes, essentially plastic slippers, were at least four sizes too big. “Circus clown-sized shoes,” her attorney said.
Henderson, 59, repeatedly requested different shoes but was told that none were available.
The slippers — nay flippers — might have been comical but for one thing: Henderson had to shuffle to the Douglas County Courthouse for a hearing in January 2020. Her hands and ankles cuffed, with a chain running from her waist to her ankle, she lumbered along a hallway.
There, on the fifth floor, one of her “greatly oversized shower shoes” got caught up in the chain, according to a lawsuit she filed. Henderson tripped and did a face plant on the hard tile floor. Unable to break her fall because of the cuffs around her wrist, Henderson broke her nose, her dentures and a bone in her hand. Blood streamed from her face.
And that wasn’t the worst of it, Omaha attorney Tom White said. He alleges in the lawsuit that she didn’t receive care from the jail or its medical provider for almost two weeks. Finally, she received X-rays, and a doctor discovered the fracture in her swollen hand.
Now Henderson is suing the county over her injuries. It joins a list of several lawsuits White has filed in the past two years claiming that the County Jail and its medical provider, Correct Care Solutions, have failed to properly care for inmates.
Douglas County has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
White questioned why Douglas County sheriff’s deputies use chains and leg cuffs for inmates accused of nonviolent crimes. (Deputies escort all inmates in the same manner.)
The attorney said he understands that the orange plastic shoes may not always be a perfect fit “because they don’t want inmates sprinting away.” But these were “many, many sizes too big.”
“This is just careless and stupid,” White said. “She asked for shoes that fit. She even told them, ‘These are like clown shoes.’ They just kept saying, ‘We don’t have any others.’
“Then this happens. Imagine doing a face plant with no way to break your fall. She was covered in blood.”
Todd Cooper: Memorable stories of 2020
Cooper, who covers the justice system, relays his five most memorable stories of 2020.
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