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'He didn't have a death sentence' Mother pushes for change in Indiana prisons after son's death

Brandon Nissley died on February 23, 2020
Brandon Nissley died on February 23, 2020 at the age of 23 after having trouble breathing at New Castle Correctional Facility.
Posted at 8:35 AM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 11:09:32-04

NEW CASTLE — An Indiana mother is pushing for change in state prisons after the death of her son.

Brandon Nissley, 23, died Feb. 23, 2020, after struggling to breathe at New Castle Correctional Facility in Henry County.

At the state prison, Brandon was prisoner number 271391.

But to his mother, Kelly Nissley, Brandon was her first born and only son.

“He was a very fun kid, very unusual,” said Kelly. "I think about him every day, all the time."

Brandon suffered from asthma and COPD and used an inhaler.

On February 21, 2020, court records said Brandon told prison staff he was in pain and could not breathe.

Court records allege the prison staff mocked Brandon and accused him of “faking.”

His mom visited him the next day, on February 22, and noticed his fingertips were blue.

Kelly said she pleaded with staff members to get Brandon emergency medical help.

"As a mom, you want to fix things and when I was there that day, I tried," said Kelly.

Kelly said her son continued to tell prison staff that he could not breathe.

Although medical staff evaluated him, court documents allege no one called 911 for emergency help until it was too late.

In the early morning hours of February 23, Brandon turned pale and completely stopped breathing.

Court documents allege a nurse did not check Brandon’s oxygen levels until 15 minutes after his arrival in the prison medical clinic, and when she did check, there was no reading.

An infirmary nurse called 911 and Brandon was transported to a hospital where he was declared dead at 1:02 am on February 23, 2020, court records show.

Kelly filed a wrongful death lawsuit on April 9 against the Geo Group, a Florida company that runs New Castle Correctional Facility, and Wexford of Indiana, the contracted medical provider for the prison.

The lawsuit alleges they were negligent and failed to provide Brandon adequate medical care and failed to call for emergency medical treatment in a timely fashion.

Kelly hopes to prompt change at Indiana prisons.

“What Brandon went through when he died, you know, and the pain he was in, I want to help other people,” said Kelly. “I just miss him and I can't be there for him."

Kelly’s attorney, Tim Rowe, points out that taxpayers pay private companies to run facilities like New Castle prison.

“They make a lot of money doing it,” said Rowe. “This is still a human being. Provide basic medical services to this man. He was having an asthma attack and they were completely indifferent to it."

Rowe said the prison staff was well aware of Brandon’s asthma and COPD.

“It was treatable, and it was avoidable," said Rowe.

Brandon Nissley was serving a three-year sentence for sexual misconduct with a minor, and was scheduled to be released in 2022, Rowe said.

“I'm not going to sit here and pretend that what he did was right,” said Rowe. “He didn't have a death sentence."

Kelly hoped prison would rehabilitate her son.

Indiana Department of Correction prisoner 271391 is now listed as “deceased.”

Kelly hopes to prevent other parents from losing a child.

"People need to be aware that this is going on with the medication,” said Kelly. “When their family members are telling them they aren't getting the help they need, they need to believe them. Things need to change."

Wexford declined to comment to WRTV, and GEO Group referred us to the Indiana Department of Correction who also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

WRTV Investigates asked IDOC to provide data on in-custody deaths at state prisons, and we are still waiting on that information.