YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The family of a Northeast Ohio man who died behind bars has been searching for answers and accountability from the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center for nearly two years.
“We felt some kind of comfort just knowing where he was at night and then it ultimately ended up in his death,” Don McCann, III said. “It's been a shame. It's been a robbery to our whole family.”
According to James McCann’s family and new litigation against the prison and its operators, McCann’s death could have been prevented.
“I really believe that the prison staff fully knew that he was ill and that they did not seek help for him,” Pam Bryan said. “It was devastating when I lost my son to prison. Very hurtful.”
McCann was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 2018 for charges including burglary, attempted robbery and possession of drugs, but would have been eligible for parole in 2020.
“People aren't perfect, but no one deserves what my brother went through,” Don McCann, III said. “My mom showed up at my door and told me that my brother passed away and I was in complete disbelief. I refused to accept it.”
McCann never saw the outside of the Youngstown prison following his sentencing. Court documents allege neglect by prison staff led to McCann’s death, with acute pneumonia listed as the cause of death by the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office.
“It's my belief that they let him lay on the cot and die,” Bryan said. “Why didn't he go to the doctor? Why didn't he get some medicine?”
According to the recently filed lawsuit, McCann sought medical aid from prison staff on May 6, 2019 and a nurse made an appointment for him to see a doctor on May 10, 2019.
However, for reasons unclear, McCann did not see the doctor.
Documents state McCann was still sick the following day, May 11, 2019, and asked to be sent to the medical pod, but that request was allegedly denied by a guard. McCann was found dead in his cell the morning of May 12, 2019.
“We’re asking for awareness where this doesn't happen to somebody else's family,” Don McCann, III said. “For the past year and a half, I've been waiting for him to walk through my back door. I really haven't been able to accept it. My brother was a great man. He was like my second half.”
A spokesperson for CoreCivic, the company which runs the prison, provided News 5 with the following written statement:
“While we can't speak to the specifics of active litigation and privacy laws prevent us from disclosing information about medical treatment, CoreCivic is committed to providing high-quality healthcare to those entrusted to our care.”
McCann’s family is seeking more than $75,000 in restitution from the prison in hopes of financially supporting his two young daughters.
“It would be nice to put some money up in the girls’ name on my brother's behalf. He was a good dad and he was a great person,” Don McCann, III said. “He was in good spirits. Drug-free. He prayed to God every day and he couldn't wait to get home to try again for his kids.”
McCann’s family is hoping for change in both public and private prisons.
“A four-year sentence turned into a lifetime sentence and it's such a horrible loss,” Bryan said.