Tompkins County Jail

An inmate at the Tompkins County Jail has filed a lawsuit asking for judicial intervention and immediate release from the facility after an incident that occurred in April. 

The suit, being brought by a man named Joshua Conklin, asks for “immediate release due to lack of medical care and punishment beyond cruel and unusual,” also known as a writ of habeas corpus, which would allow him to leave the jail because of the facility’s alleged inability to provide adequate medical care. It stems from what Conklin said was a badly botched medical procedure last month that has left him incontinent.

Sheriff Derek Osborne and Tompkins County Jail Superintendent Ray Bunce are both named as defendants in the suit, which is being handled by Ithaca-based attorney Jerome Mayersak. 

When contacted for comment, Osborne said the allegations at the center of the suit are wholly false and that Conklin has received excellent medical care, stating instead that Conklin’s complaints in the matter are concocted and “self-inflicted.”

Conklin claims the events in question unfolded on April 5, 2020, when he began to complain of an intense pain that brought him to the floor of his cell, which Conklin blames on “bladder spasms”—the result of injuries sustained in a 2019 truck accident. Though he tried to notify prison guards of the situation, he said they were dismissive, put him back on his bed from the ground and left. 

After he again wound up on the floor from the pain of the spasms, guards entered his room and commanded him to get back into bed, Conklin said. When he again protested, they brought him to the medical holding cell, placing his mattress on the floor and leaving him there. 

“They threw my mattress on the floor [then] tossed me on top of it where I lay there in pain and eventually went into a seizure,” Conklin wrote in his affidavit. “I didn’t know what had happened but when I came out of it I could not lift my arm to wipe the snot and spit off my face.”

Following that, Conklin explains his attempts to demonstrate the seriousness of his crisis to the guards, by emptying the contents of his catheter’s urine bag onto the ground, which contained “three big chunks of bloody sediment,” he describes. He then self-flushed his catheter, according to the affidavit, using water from the shower, and waited until morning when he was taken to the medical exam room. 

The Ithaca Times filed a FOIL request for all surveillance video footage in the D-block of the Tompkins County Jail on April 5, 2020, but the request was rejected on the grounds that “For security purposes, we do not provide any video footage from inside the Jail.”

The suit’s allegations continue to mount and intensify from there. Conklin details what allegedly followed that, a harrowing narrative that consists primarily of a jail nurse ineffectively attempting to remove Conklin’s catheter from his bladder. After failing to do so, Conklin claims that the nurse handed him a pair of black rubber gloves and told him to remove it himself from his own stomach if he felt comfortable. 

“I of course am not qualified to take any part in any medical procedure much less my own,” he said. 

Despite his apprehension, Conklin did remove it, pulling out several inches of tubing from his stomach and, ominously, a coin-sized blood clot at the end. Conklin began to panic as blood pooled on his stomach from where he had pulled out the tubing, but the nurse reinserted a new catheter tube. Conklin contests that the reinsertion was done incorrectly and abruptly, and said since that day, he’s had episodes of bladder spasms which become so thoroughly painful that he’s unable to control his bowels, something that wouldn’t have happened at all before the incident. Conklin names two inmates that would attest to those attacks. 

“I have not had any issues with that before or after my truck accident up until the day the county jail nurse changed my super pubic catheter tube which was the 6th day of April 2020, around or in between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.,” Conklin wrote. “Every single day since I have soiled myself.”

Mayersak declined to comment on the suit. Osborne and Bunce were both contacted and asked for a response; Bunce did not respond and Osborne, after reviewing the lawsuit, issued a statement noting Conklin’s criminal background and rebuking his claims.  

“In his statement, Mr. Conklin paints a grave picture, which would be very sad if any of it were true,” Osborne said. “The truth is, his incarceration and current complaints are self-inflicted.  Mr. Conklin has received excellent medical care by our nursing staff and jail physician and is simply trying to extricate himself from his current situation. He has never once been dragged, thrown or tossed as alleged.  On the date in question, 04/05/20, Mr. Conklin was escorted from his cell after pouring fruit punch on his cell floor, attempting to have it pass as blood.”

Osborne called the lawsuit “nonsense” and said it’s being used for Conklin’s personal benefit. 

“We work tirelessly to provide a professional atmosphere for staff and inmates alike, and it’s very disheartening to read such false statements,” Osborne said. “If Mr. Conklin is successful in his scheme to get released, I fear the public will be further victimized. Mr. Conklin is exactly where he needs to be.”

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