On his third day in the Volusia County Branch Jail, the pain in Doug Knichel’s foot was torturing him. He wound up in a wheelchair in the medical clinic.
“They said it was gout,” he would say later. “I had no idea. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know.”
It wasn’t gout, and Knichel’s pain got worse, despite an assortment of prescriptions and injections. “The most pain I’ve ever experienced in my whole life,” he said. On day nine, his toes curled under his foot. A day later, a nurse noticed they were cool to the touch.
Within a few more days, the toes were gone. As soon as he was out of custody, Knichel went to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with an “arterial occlusion,” the type of blood flow blockage that causes gangrene — not gout. He had his toes amputated, cutting off about a quarter of his right foot.
Then he sued. His complaint, filed at the end of 2013, was one of many targeting Corizon Health, the country’s largest private prison healthcare provider that counts Volusia among its more than 500 jail and prison contracts across the U.S. The company is the same one that’s helping privatize health care in Florida’s prisons, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s first initiatives in office.