In an exclusive first-person story written for the Florida Courier, former State Representative Dwayne Taylor describes his experience as a prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary’s minimum security prison camp.
Editor’s note: After a four-day jury trial in Orlando in August 2017, Dwayne Taylor was convicted of eight counts of wire fraud in connection with alleged misuse of campaign funds. A federal appeals court denied his appeal in August 2018. He completed his prison sentence in December 2018 but is still on federal probation.
BY DWAYNE L. TAYLOR
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
After receiving the shocking news that I would die without a heart transplant, I remained in the hospital for almost two weeks. All I could think about were the days, weeks and months I was complaining about my chest pains to the prison and Atlanta General Hospital.
They refused to give me required medications for my autoimmune disease then ignored my complaints, which eventually caused me to suffer from pneumonia and anemia. Instead, they both gave me aspirin. They both had that, “Oh well, sue me” attitude since “all prisoners lie.”
Before leaving the hospital, I met a cardiac heart failure doctor and a heart transplant doctor. They both educated me on what to expect in the future.
Also, the attending cardiac physician told me the first thing he wanted me to do was to avoid stress. (How do you do that?) The second thing was that I must take a regimen of cardiac medicines to help possibly prolong my heart and life.
I take a total of 15 different pills every day. These medications make me sick, dizzy, drowsy, sleepy and have many more side effects that keep me from being productive. So before I take my medications, I try and accomplish everything I need to within one or two hours.
I’m still in constant pain. The difficulty of trying to make it through each day is extremely challenging. My life has been changed forever.
My doctors have been very positive and optimistic, praying with me and mapping out a plan for my treatment. But I know the reality of what I am facing. I know my health is fading because I feel it every day. I try to remain positive going back and forth to the emergency room and the necessary doctors’ appointments when the pain is unbearable.
Having walked with God for over 30 years now, I know God can do anything and everything, so folks, please don’t try and convince me of that. This has been my toughest journey. Never in my life did I think I would ever be in this position fighting for my life.
Know that I will not quit. I have a lot to live for. My children and grandchildren who I love and adore need me in their lives.
But there are over 115,000 people waiting on a list to receive an organ transplant. Many people have died and will die waiting to receive a heart transplant from that list. The odds are not in my favor. I AM NOT on the list.
Time to act
The federal government can only kill me once. They knew of my health issues and autoimmune disease before I was sentenced to prison and while I was serving. I was forced to give up certain civil rights when I was criminally convicted, but I will never give up my right to live. The federal government won’t take that from me.
People can unfairly judge me, but they don’t have the right to do so. Only the One who was willing to die for my sins and reconcile me to God has the eternal right to do that. I look forward to seeing His face and personally thanking Him. My faith is still strong despite what I am going through.
While I was incarcerated, other prisoners would tell me about how the prison staff was stealing money from the trust fund or how guards were putting food in the back of their personal vehicle from the chow hall.
But that is not my fight. I am not here to fight for better TV time, better basketballs, or more rec time. Prison is not supposed to be comfortable otherwise people would really want to keep going back.
I’ve seen it
However, I have been and witnessed medical treatment neglect at the worst level. Many prisoners are still waiting on treatment and are just sitting there until it’s their time to die because the warden and the medical staff will not do anything to help them.
The prison decided in March 2018 they were cutting back on medical services. I remember medical staff not even showing up some days to give the diabetics their insulin or distribute the medications to inmates. This is one of the reasons I have reached out to law firms to begin a class action lawsuit against the federal government to cease this heinous mistreatment.
Why should I care?
Given my circumstances, why should I care about anything and anybody? The fact is, I DO!
Another fact is I was a firefighter and paramedic and I cared about everybody. When the call came in for help I tried my best, even putting my life on the line by running into burning buildings and such.
When I was a Daytona Beach city commissioner and a Florida State House representative, I cared about the people. I tried to save everybody and everything. Sometimes I could. Sometimes I couldn’t. But I tried.
Yes, you too
I know it’s hard for some folks to think that something like this cannot happen to you or members of your family. We are all one of God’s blessings away from being in those situations you never thought would happen to you. If or when it does, you will be the one hoping someone would come and help you. If you don’t believe me, keep thinking that you are too busy, good or smart for something to happen to you and let’s see what happens in the future when you need help.
Again, why should I care? I am out of prison after a short “stay.’’ I have my own family and deathly ill health issues to deal with.
I care because that is how God wired me. Sometimes I don’t want to care. I’d just like to ignore it all. But I see this mistreatment of others and I know it’s not right, so I feel like I must help them.
Maybe that is why God put me there in the beginning, because if I had to sign up for that detail to go to prison, I would have respectfully declined it. I can’t say for certain that is why I was there, but who will help those people without a voice? Many people can look the other way.
I know prison brutality and mistreatment may not gain any traction with ordinary folks. And I may not be alive to see these issues resolved. But I intend to do what I can while I still yet live and the very limited health I have.
I know the challenges of dealing with the federal government and it can be intimidating. If they don’t attack the person, they attack their friends and families. They have all kinds of means and ways to do so.
Many law firms, including large ones in Orlando and Atlanta, seem afraid to take on the federal government. They all want the low-hanging fruit, the easy cases they can settle and claim to get more money than everybody else. Therefore, they don’t get involved.
Where’s the oversight?
Who will police the federal government when things like this happen and they are wrong? They oversee themselves, of course. Only the lawyers who want to see justice done – but don’t have the financial resources to do so – try to help and handle these types of cases. Thank God for them!
I’ll go alone
I will go file a class action suit even if I must go by myself. I am not afraid to speak out or write about what was done to me and what they are doing to other prisoners.
There is nothing for me to be fearful of now. They can only kill me once. And I am already dying and there is nothing that can stop it other than a heart transplant.
Sometimes you must take a stance for what is right even when it would cost you everything you have.
“Oh death, where is thy sting?”
Read the entire series of Dwayne Taylor’s articles at www.flcourier.com.