A Colorado Springs man awaiting sentencing in a spate of pharmacy robberies went 22 days without getting his prescription medication at the El Paso County jail, leading to a mental unraveling behind bars, his attorney said in court Friday.
Instead of being sentenced as scheduled, Joseph Lee Martinez was ordered to undergo a 60-day competency evaluation, the result of delusional thoughts that he reported during the more than three weeks he went without his medication.
“This has been a common problem,” 4th Judicial District Judge Robin Chittum said in approving the delay, laying blame on Armor Correctional Health Services of Miami, whose three-year tenure as the county’s for-profit jail medical provider has been dogged by complaints of neglect and failure to give inmates their medication.
Chittum ordered that Marrinez’s psychological testing be done at the jail in hopes of limiting the disruption. Sending Martinez, 39, to the state psychiatric hospital in Pueblo could have spawned further delays, she said.
The pause is the latest example of how slip-ups in jail health care have roiled court cases and left mentally ill inmates, including those who haven’t been convicted, to languish without appropriate care. The apparent error comes as the Sheriff’s Office and Armor health services are on course to sever their troubled relationship two years shy of what was expected to be a five-year contract.
In May, Armor said in a letter to Sheriff Bill Elder that the company will cut ties with the county after 2019, leaving about $15 million on the table, the amount it could have been paid had the contract been renewed through 2021.
Elder, who has faced mounting claims that substandard care has put inmates in danger, has contended that he’d decided to end the deal with Armor.
An Armor representative did not respond to an emailed request for comment Friday.
Martinez’s public defender, Amelia Blyth, didn’t specify his psychological condition nor disclose the medication he was deprived. Prosecutors didn’t dispute the medication slip-up.
Chittum previously tangled with Armor health services in presiding over the case of James Papol, who has pleaded insanity in the 1988 rape and murder of Mary Lynn Vialpando in the Old Colorado City neighborhood on the city’s west side.
Papol, who has schizophrenia and has previously received insanity acquittals, went eight days without receiving his antipsychotic medication at the jail, delaying his case as doctors sought to restore his mental stability.
In other cases in Chittum’s court, inmates were given their pills “sometimes at 9 in the morning, sometimes at 5 at night and sometimes at 11 o’clock at night,” jeopardizing their treatments, the judge said.
She ordered that Armor provide a record showing Martinez received his prescription medications at “at the right time, every time,” echoing language from her orders binding the company in the Papol case.
Police say Martinez wore disguises and made violent threats while robbing six pharmacies in four months, beginning in November 2017. He demanded that pharmacists hand over anti-anxiety and pain medications, making off with more than 15,000 pills — some of which he openly sold to friends via his Facebook page.
Two tipsters told police he was affiliated with a local gang and often went by the name “Kagg Giancana.”
Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated incorrect information about the inmate's brother, John Martinez.