Department of Corrections under court order to improve health care for inmates

A Volusia County family blames the state prison system for having to watch their son die and they are not alone.

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — A Volusia County family blames the state prison system for having to watch their son die and they are not alone.

9 Investigates has spent eight months taking a close look at inmates who have died of natural causes while in the care of the Department of Corrections.

Channel 9 found the agency has fought at least three lawsuits in recent years, which is a big problem for taxpayers.

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The DOC is under a court order to improve health care for inmates for certain illnesses costing tens of millions.

Some people believe this could have been prevented if the state had done right by inmates, some of whom have died.

One judge called what’s happened inside the prisons “inhumane.”

“We had to pull the plug. So, we sat there and watched our son die,” said Leo Kubinski, the father of a former inmate.

Days after Richard Kubinski started his 23-month sentence for aggravated assault, he was taken to a Jacksonville hospital because of an abdominal abscess.

“He had diarrhea badly and the diarrhea was coming out like tar,” said Leo Kubinski.

The family ordered and allowed 9 Investigates to review Richard Kubinski's medical records.

Channel 9 found complaints of unbearable pain and doctors' orders for specific medication to continue treating Kubinski when, the family said, the DOC demanded he return to the prison.

A week after a doctor changed Richard Kubinski’s medication, Kubinski died.

Gamaliel Cineus’ mother alleges he was treated with over-the-counter medication to treat symptoms linked to blood clots before he died of pulmonary thromboembolism. Theresa Cineus threatens to sue.

The deaths of Cineus and Kubinski were ruled as being due to natural causes, like those of more than 1,300 inmates who died under DOC care over the last three years.

During a review of autopsy reports, there were deaths linked to curable illnesses such as heart disease, pneumonia, liver disease, diabetic ketoacidosis and liver disease due to hepatitis C.

The DOC said in a statement, “Many inmates have not had regular healthcare access prior to arrival and suffer from pre-existing conditions and its elderly population, which is 50 or older, increased by 10% since 2015.”

“They are human beings and they deserve human treatment,” said Dante Travisani, an attorney.

Travisani has sued the DOC at least three times over improper health care.

A recent case is forcing the agency to spend at least $20 million to screen and treat hepatitis C, which, left untreated, leads to blood clots, diabetes, liver cancer and cirrhosis.

“It’s absolutely a funding issue. And that’s absolutely what the trial courts found,” said Travisani.

A DOC spokesperson told Channel 9 overall health care funding has increased during the last four years.

There is $566 million in the budget this year, including a $48 million increase for pharmaceuticals.