Inmates receive inadequate medical care, jail officer at Veronica Nelson investigation says

During questioning on the witness stand, Reid broke down in tears as she played some of the tapes, which she called “disgusting”.

In one, Nelson asks for a drink and is told, “I can’t… There must be more officers here.” In another, when she rings the intercom for help, she is told, “It’s not an emergency, stop asking.”

Reid said, “No one should be spoken to like that.”

She said significant gaps in communication between medical staff and Victoria Corrections staff meant she did not know Nelson had spent hours vomiting and if she had known she would not have never approved his transfer.

CCTV footage shown during the inquest showed prison staff opening Nelson’s hands, which were cramped in a claw, to give him medicine.

Veronica Nelson died in custody on January 2, 2020.

As Nelson’s condition worsened, she continued to buzz throughout the night, but the coroner learned that she had been told she could no longer be given medication or seen by a doctor at this time.

Reid said the CCTV footage that showed Nelson shaking hands and the woman vomiting, heaving and crying throughout the night should have met the criteria for someone to call a code black.

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“Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have moved her [to the general population]“, said Reid.

Under Corrections Victoria policies, the Inquiry heard, inmates have the right to receive health care equivalent to that available in the community at large.

Reid said that did not happen in Nelson’s case and more generally in the female prison population.

She disagreed with the findings of a staff debriefing – in which she and others were not included – which said “little could have been improved” in Nelson’s care, and a second internal review which found that Nelson had been treated appropriately and in accordance with prison policy.

Reid’s testimony came amid Supreme Court action from one of the last prison staff to have interactions with Nelson, whose lawyers have tried to suppress his identity.

Prison officer Tracey Brown had argued that her name and likeness should be removed from public view before giving evidence, but coroner Simon McGregor disagreed.

On Wednesday, Brown’s attorneys appealed McGregor’s decision. But Supreme Court Justice Andrea Tsalamandris ultimately dismissed the appeal, following submissions from lawyers for Nelson’s family and age.

Brown is due to testify in the coming days.

Two other witnesses, prison nurse Atheana George and doctor Sean Runacres, also unsuccessfully asked the coroner to have their names removed.

The investigation is continuing.

The images and audio contained in this story were released to the media with the permission of the family. For 24/7 crisis support, run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, contact 13YARN (13 92 76).