Crime & Justice

California prison inmate's family wins jury award after his death

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A Los Angeles jury has awarded the family of a deceased prison inmate almost $2 million. His survivors had sued claiming that the man’s cancer went untreated while he was in custody.

Five years ago, Francisco Castaneda spent four months in a Kern County state prison for methamphetamine possession. That prison turned him over to federal immigration authorities who detained the Salvadoran in a San Diego facility.

In both places, he complained about growths and lesions on his penis and asked for medical attention. He received pain pills and clean underwear but not a biopsy – even after a doctor at the state prison recommended one.

Castaneda’s family maintains that the state and federal institutions ignored his symptoms until he needed an amputation. Two years ago – after he’d testified to a U.S. House committee – the 36-year-old man died.

His family alleged negligence and sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Lawyers for that agency said Castaneda’s cancer was untreatable, but a jury disagreed. It awarded his 17-year-old daughter $1.5 million, plus medical expenses.

Attorneys for the state have not indicated whether they’ll appeal the jury award. The family’s lawsuit against federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement is scheduled to go to court next year.