Mother claims son’s vision deteriorates as prison denies him medical care

Kelly Richards said her son will be blind for life if Nevada Department of Corrections officials continue to deny him the medical care he needs.

Inmate Rashaad Williams, 24, sustained eye injuries from birdshot in a shotgun during a prison brawl in which he was not involved.

Richards said her son has been denied medical care that could save his sight, visits by an attorney and contact with his family since he was admitted to the hospital.

The department categorically denied the allegations.

Williams was transferred to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center from the William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely, the department said last week. Richards said she was told about the incident 48 hours after the April 21 brawl and that her son was a bystander and complied with guards’ orders before he was shot in the face.

Richards said her son had to wait several hours before he received proper medical attention.

The department said in a release last week that Williams was provided on-site medical care before he was taken to the hospital.

“My main concern is my son’s health,” Richards said.

Richards said that her repeated calls to department and hospital officials have gone unanswered. An ophthalmologist, however, told her the hospital didn’t have the specialized equipment needed to fully explore her son’s medical options.

“They’re just basically like, ‘You’re blind. Go back to prison.’ They didn’t even do all the tests,” she said, adding that her family has even offered to cover the costs of a second opinion and a specialist.

The department called Richards’ claims inaccurate. Spokesman Brian Connett said Williams has had the chance to see an ophthalmologist and would be allowed to see a specialist if a doctor ordered it.

“He’s getting the medical care that the hospital is determining, not the department of corrections,” he said.

But medical care is only the first of Richards’ complaints, which she described as civil rights violations.

She said that the family has been interviewing different attorneys and that prison officials would not let a lawyer visit Williams at the hospital — a claim that Connett also denied.

Henderson attorney Alexis Plunkett confirmed that the department refused to allow Williams legal visits. She said she was turned away by hospital and prison officials, a move she believes is intended to “isolate the victim.”

Richards also said the prison said she could talk to her son every other day while he was in the hospital, and corrections officials broke that promise. She said calls every morning mostly go unreturned.

Connett also denied that claim, saying the department has gone beyond accommodations normally made to prisoners.

“She talked to him at least twice,” he said.

One of the saddest parts of the story, Richards said, is that her son likely was going to be released in the next few months.

Williams, legally named Stacey Michael Richards, pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in 2012 and faced a minimum sentence of 2½ years, according to Clark County court records.

Richards said her son was moved from facility to facility, but as a nonviolent offender, he never should have been placed in a maximum security prison.

Richards, who lives in Southern California, said she could not make it to Nevada for the court proceedings, but her understanding is that her son basically stole a cellphone.

“I’m just a mother,” she said. “I understand he made a mistake and had to pay his debt to society. He was well on his way to get out.”

“All (the prison) says is ‘I’m sorry.’ They just want to sweep it under the rug.”

About eight other inmates also were injured by the shotgun blast, corrections officials said in a release Wednesday night, but their injuries were described as minor. The inmates were treated by prison medical staff and declined further treatment, the department said.

The incident began when four prisoners attacked one inmate during “open tier time,” the department said. Officers gave verbal commands to stop fighting and get on the floor, and all of the prisoners complied except two who kept fighting.

After additional commands by the officer to cease fighting, an officer fired a blank warning shot and then shot a shell consisting of birdshot in the direction of the two fighters, which the department said is in accordance with their policy.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl.