Sheridan federal prison inmate dies from medical issues as prison conditions in question
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced Wednesday that a 42-year-old man incarcerated at the Sheridan Federal Correctional Institution in Oregon died, possibly from medical complications.
On Aug. 12, Ikaika Ryan Chung was transported to a local hospital for low blood pressure, low blood sugar and elevated heart rate, prison officials said in a statement. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Chung’s death comes amid serious concerns raised about the overall health and medical care of the more than 1,200 men serving sentences inside Oregon’s only federal prison.
“Mentally and physically, inmates are suffering,” Oregon’s federal public defender Lisa Hay wrote in a document she filed in federal court Friday, the day after Chung’s death. “Some have died.”
Hay wrote that she’s received accounts of “unresponsive and demoralized staff,” who people in the prison say “are unavailable to answer questions or to listen to medical concerns. Staff shrug their shoulders and walk away. Cellmates ring alarms but nothing happens. A sense of helplessness and hopelessness pervades.”
In her court filing, Hay also detailed a number of troubling accounts her office has received this month from people “begging for help, for themselves and others.”
It appears Chung’s case was one of them, though few details surrounding his death have been released, including any official cause of death.
On Aug. 12 — the same day Chung was taken from Sheridan to a hospital — Oregon’s federal public defender’s office received an email from a person incarcerated at Sheridan.
Hay confirmed to OPB the redacted person’s name in her court filing was Chung.
“inmate [redacted] has a medical problem where he is delirious, cant walk cuz his legs are swollen beyond the scope of ‘normal edema’, he has spoke to multiple staff and medical personal who specifically are nurse heidt, emt santalino, unit staff of 4a,” the email to Hay’s office stated. “he needs immediate medical attention and they are refusing to do ANYTHING to change his current medical status. he NEEDS HELP. he cant walk on his own and needs help distinguishing clothing from bedding because he isn’t of a normal state of mind.”
Chung arrived at the medium security facility Dec. 16, 2019. Two months earlier, he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge involving a drug case in Southern California and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
According to the Bureau of Prisons, Chung tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 29, 2020 and was placed in medical isolation and monitored.
On Jan. 25, Chung “was converted to a status of recovered following the completion of medical isolation and presenting with no symptoms,” prisons officials said in its release announcing Chung’s death.
He had “pre-existing medical conditions which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease,” the Bureau of Prisons release stated. The announcement does not disclose further details.
As of Wednesday, Sheridan listed 30 positive cases of COVID-19 inside the facility. That’s the federal prison system’s second largest outbreak in the country behind a facility in Florida.
Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting