Friday, May 23, 2008

Inmate's death tests new system

Sanita Capozziello died Sunday while serving a 45-day sentence at the Marion County Jail.


Published: Friday, April 18, 2008 at 6:30 a.m.

OCALA - When Sanita Capozziello died Sunday night after being found unresponsive in the Marion County Jail infirmary, she became the first death under the watch of Ocala Community Care. For Marion County Sheriff Ed Dean, her death was one too many.

Still, Dean defended the jail's health-care service Thursday while denying accusations of negligence made by Capozziello's family.

"It's my goal, and it's Ocala Community Care's goal, that no one dies in the jail," Dean said. "The question is, was Mrs. Capozziello treated well and properly when she was here, and the answer is yes."

Dean said that after reviewing Capozziello's four days in the jail, he found no violations of any procedures. Capozziello was to serve 45 days in jail after pleading guilty to a repeat violation of retail petty theft on April 10.

Loretta Rich, the medical liaison between the Sheriff's Office and OCC, said that Capozziello was placed immediately in the jail's infirmary after an initial screening. Dean added that she was also put on suicide watch.

Sheriff officials also arranged that Friday to transport Capozziello, 69, to Shands at the University of Florida three times a week.

"She was a special-needs elderly female," Dean said, "and we wanted to make sure she received excellent care."

Capozziello spent her last days in an infirmary cell with a glass front about 10 feet from and in direct sight of the nurse's station. OCC nurses checked on her every 30 minutes.

Sheriff's Detective Donald Buie said Monday that when Capozziello was checked at 6 p.m. Sunday, she was fine. At 6:30 p.m., she was not breathing. An autopsy revealed that she died of natural causes associated with hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

"She was on a half-hour check, which shows the level of attention all our infirmary inmates get," Dean said. "I have the highest level of confidence in the OCC's delivery of health care in our jail."

Dean said that OCC, which took over health care operations at the jail in January, has been viewed as a model for the rest of the country. He recently spoke at a summit in Washington, D.C., about utilizing and collaborating with many health-care officials within Marion County to create OCC. The new system was implemented after two years of using a private contractor to handle medical services at the jail.

"The law states that we provide the community standard of care," Dean said. "I believe we have gone above and beyond that."

The infirmary at the Marion County Jail features about 20 individual cells, all with a front glass wall so nurses, doctors and correctional officers can look in on inmates inside. Across the hall, a dentist office and two examining rooms fill up with inmates for most of the day.

OCC nursing practitioner Nora Grenia said she sees about 20 patients a day, while the doctor on duty sees about 10.

"We can treat anything from broken toes to pneumonia," she said. "That's what we're trained to do."

Joe VanHoose may be reached at or at 352-867-4124.

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