Jackie Hudson goes from jail to hospital

Sr. Jackie Hudson. Photo by Leonard Eiger, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

A 76-year-old nun and peace activist was hospitalized after being denied medical care at a federally contracted private detention facility.

Sister Jackie Hudson, OP, age 76, who has been in prison since her conviction on federal trespassing charges resulting from her peaceful protest at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility last July, was hospitalized for serious medical complications resulting from being denied care while at the Irwin County Detention Center, a federally contracted private detention facility in Ocilla, Georgia.

Hudson was one of eight people in federal custody awaiting sentencing for an anti-nuclear demonstration at the Y-12 nuclear weapon site at Oak Ridge Tennessee.

She and seven others, including two other nuns from her congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, were first held at the Blount County Detention Center in Tennessee, then transported to Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), a private facility in Ocilla County, Georgia which is operated by Michael Croft Enterprises under a U.S. Bureau of Prisons contract. On Saturday afternoon May 28th Sr. Hudson began experiencing intense chest pain and shortness of breath.

Sr. Hudson’s symptoms suggested heart failure, and this was not ruled out until after 60 hours of intense pain, when on the morning of May 31st she was finally taken to the local hospital emergency department. From Saturday afternoon May 28th through Tuesday morning May 31st, in spite of numerous attempts, Sr. Hudson was denied access to a physician, her attorney or family members.

During the 60 hours between Saturday afternoon May 28th, 2011 and Tuesday morning May 31st, Warden Barbara Walrath was “unavailable” and directed her staff to let no one, including her attorney, speak to Sr. Hudson. The ICDC Nurse who was on duty was not required to consult Dr. Howard C. McMahan the medical Director of the Irwin County Detention Center who under the ICDC procedures was not on call and thus was not notified of Sr. Hudson’s condition and did not examine her until June 1st.

The source of Sr. Hudson’s continuing upper chest pain had not yet been determined, and she remained in isolation in the “medical room” of the ICDC until she was transported back to Knoxville where she had been ordered to appear before H. Bruce Guyton, U.S. Magistrate Judge this morning at 9:00 am in order to be released from prison for medical reasons.

When Hudson arrived at the Knox County Sheriff’s Detention Facility in Knoxville on June 8th, the Physician’s Assistant in charge recognized the seriousness of her condition and had her sent to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Hospital staff are giving Hudson medication to keep her pain free, while treating her Pneumonia and stabilizing her kidney function.

This morning at 9:00 am, Hudson’s attorney, Brad Henry, appeared before Judge Guyton, and in Hudson’s absence petitioned the court for her release pending sentencing. The judge granted the request pending Hudson’s acceptance of the conditions of her release. Henry, accompanied by a U.S. Marshall and Federal probation officer, went to the hospital where he obtained Hudson’s signature.

Hudson will remain at the University of Tennessee Medical Center until strong enough to be released to recuperate in Knoxville. She will then travel home to Seattle where she will return to the care of her doctors at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Note: Updates on Hudson’s condition are posted at Disarm Now Plowshares blog.