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Report: McLean County Jail Violated Inmate's Rights

McLean County Jail
Eric Stock
A jail inmate had multiple seizures before jail workers secured medication for him, according to a state report.

The rights of a McLean County jail inmate were violated after medical staff failed to give him medication  needed for his epilepsy, according to a substantiated complaint filed with the Regional Human Rights Authority (HRA) of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission.

Lavonte Rayford received inadequate medical care during his June 2019 stay at the jail, said the report released in May. In August, the county responded to recommendations and suggestions from the Peoria office of the HRA, the investigative arm of the state guardianship agency.

Rayford is not named in the HRA report, but WGLT has confirmed his identity through information in the report, court records and a sheriff’s department incident report of his conduct at a June 26 hearing to consider his mental fitness to stand trial.

The courtroom scuffle between deputies and the 25-year-old Bloomington man came after he jumped up on a table. A Taser was deployed, but Rayford pulled the probes from his body. Several deputies were called to physically restrain Rayford and remove him from the courtroom, said the incident report.

No charges were filed in connection with the courtroom incident. While held in the jail’s booking area, Rayford also flooded his cell by plugging a drain. 

Rayford’s mother, who is his legal guardian, brought her son’s medication for epilepsy to the jail after he was housed in the booking area of the facility. Inmates with symptoms of a mental illness are routinely housed in the booking area, where they are monitored by staff until their transfer to another area of the jail.

Records reviewed by the HRA investigator indicated jail staff was familiar with Rayford from his incarceration earlier in the year, noted the report that also stated Rayford took medications for psychiatric disorders.

The day after his arrest, Rayford suffered multiple seizures in his cell after he missed three doses of the epilepsy medication that was still stored in a property lockbox. State jail regulations require staff to identify and verify medications brought into the facility before administering them to an inmate.

Verification of drugs should be obtained “as soon as possible, no later than the time interval specified for administration of the medication on the prescription container,” according to state rules cited in the HRA report.

After his third seizure episode, jail staff noticed an egg-size lump above Rayford’s right eye and called an ambulance. Rayford came back from the emergency room with a doctor’s order for his medications, including the epilepsy drugs. No seizures were reported after the inmate started his medication, jail records showed.

Jail paperwork reviewed by the HRA shows the medication was not even discussed until Rayford’s second day of confinement, when the inmate’s psychiatrist contacted the jail. In its conclusions, the HRA refers to nursing notes showing the nurse who took the doctor’s call “said the patient is not booked in yet thus no notification received yet, which did not appear to be what occurred.”

The state guardianship agency also found that staff violated jail policies by failing to complete a screening as required of new custodies “to ensure that emergent and urgent health needs are met.”

An officer’s request for medical assistance at 8:02 a.m. on the second day of Rayford’s confinement was deleted by a nurse from the jail’s computer documentation system without explanation, the HRA noted in its list of suggested policy reviews.

Rayford was found mentally unfit to stand trial in August 2019 and transferred to a state mental health facility. He was later returned to jail after doctors said he was restored to fitness, meaning he could understand the charges against him and able to assist with his defense.

In court filings in three pending cases, Rayford’s lawyers said he plans to offer an affirmative defense, claiming involuntary intoxication related to the medication he takes for seizures. Rayford is charged with aggravated battery of nurses at Advocate Carle by throwing cups of urine on them and head butting a hospital security guard. He also is charged with throwing a liquid on a correctional officer at the jail.

In all, the report makes three recommendations for staff training on medication and recordkeeping responsibilities and five suggestions related to staffing, communications and care of inmates with seizure disorders.

In an Aug. 5 response to the HRA by the county’s lawyer, Carrie Haas, the county notes its disagreement with the state’s conclusion, but confirms staff training has been completed on issues cited in the report.  The procedures jail staff use to communicate on inmate medical care also were outlined in the county’s response.

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Edith Brady-Lunny was a correspondent at WGLT, joining the station in 2019. She left the station in 2024.