Compassionate Release for Terry "Cool" Clark: terminally ill incarcerated person in Nevada

Compassionate Release for Terry "Cool" Clark: terminally ill incarcerated person in Nevada

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Jodi Hocking started this petition to Governor Steve Sisolak and

Terry Clark is a 36-year-old man, currently housed at the Nevada Department of Corrections. In March of 2020, after 2 years of begging for medical care, which was largely ignored, Terry learned he has Stage 3-B Small Cell Carcinoma Lung Cancer. After being provided a few months of treatment, Terry was told he was cancer-free, but his symptoms persisted. He knew something was still going on in his body and knew he had to catch the eye of medical for further testing and potential treatment.

Terry requested medical attention countless times and continued to be ignored until, in a desperate attempt to get medical care, punched himself in the face, causing a bleed. This finally got him in to see medical and at the hospital, he learned he was no longer cancer-free and required immediate chemotherapy to control the spread of the cancer. In late January of this year, Terry’s treatment has ceased from the department even though he struggles to speak or even breathe. The tumors from his cancer have grown and are visibly spreading under his skin and the department of corrections has left him to wither away without treatment, with his cell now becoming his eventual tomb.

The Nevada Department of Corrections(NDOC) has a compassionate release policy, which gives them the authority to offer Terry his freedom, via compassionate release, given the extent of his illness, but they have refused to offer him this, even in the midst of a pandemic. Return Strong, a Nevada inmate advocacy and support group has fought tirelessly to bring attention Terry’s story and has called for his immediate release so that he may be with family at the end of his time on this earth. The pleads for compassion and humanity has fallen mostly on deaf ears, with Nevada’s leader, Governor Sisolak, denying Terry’s release.

Compassionate release is not only a humane option for inmates who are withering away from illness, but it makes sense from a standard of care perspective. The NDOC is clearly not equipped to deal with the health and safety of the inmate population at large, much less someone in Terry’s condition, who has a severe illness and is quite literally taking his last breaths within the facility walls with not so much as acknowledgement from medical staff. Nevada prisons are ill-equipped to offer advanced medical or end of life services and therefore cannot meet the standard of care an inmate would receive in their community of origin. Keeping elderly, disabled, seriously ill and dying inmates’ strips them of human dignity, self-determination and violates their constitutional right for appropriate medical care (Mitchell & Williams, 2017).

If compassion and standard of care does not call out to supporters, the financial impact of incarcerating inmates eligible for compassionate release also highlights questions around the states motivation to keep seriously ill and dying people incarcerated. In 2015, the state of Nevada spent approximately $21,513 per prisoner throughout state prisons (ACLU Smart Justice, 2018). According to broader research, housing an incarcerated inmate with serious medical illnesses is estimated to cost twice as much per year than the cost to house a person in general population (Holland et al, 2020). While the increased cost may be thought to be worth it in order to protect public safety, this theory has been debunked as compassionate release programs prove to have the lowest recidivism rates of 3.5% compared to the 41% for all federal inmates (“Elderly in Prison and Compassionate Release, n.d).

Not offering or denying compassionate release is a fiscally irresponsible and morally corrupt practice as the state continues to spend significantly more on inmates who are less likely, many even unable, to recidivate. Given the significantly higher cost to incarcerate and the significantly lower likelihood to recidivate, the state has an opportunity to utilize the policy of compassionate release and redistribute funds to support programming and preventative programs that directly support and enhance public safety.

Terry has proven himself to be a model inmate: he has engaged in programming, keeping a job throughout his incarceration, received his degree, and has served most of his sentence. He has only had one minor infraction while incarcerated and that was for making rosary beads to pray with, not realizing I was against prison policy. Terry understands the reality of his illness and is asking to be home with family, with those he loves, at the end. He has written his sister and asked her to make funeral arrangements, knowing that he does not have much longer. If he dies at the facility, the NDOC is going to make her pay to get his body and she will not be able to get his belongings without first paying his medical bills. We need to get him home now. He has paid his debt to society and should be able to die in peace, with his family at his side.

Please help us get Terry home immediately.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!