In 2005, Francis Brauner was a quarter of the way through a 20-year prison sentence at Dixon Correctional Institute in Louisiana, when he had an accident.
Brauner was imprisoned for a rape conviction, which he maintains was wrongful and part of a setup by a corrupt judge.
His sentence involved hard labor, and one day he was out in the fields, cutting the grass and he bent over to pick something up from the ground. He felt a sharp pain in his back.
“There’s no words to describe how bad the pain was, really,” he says. A few days later, it got worse. “It felt like I was hit by a bolt of lightning or something, I mean the pain just shot from my head to my toes.”
Years before, he’d been in a car accident, so it was not the first time he had had back trouble. But this time, he could barely stand up.
Prison authorities rushed him to Charity Hospital in New Orleans, but then Hurricane Katrina struck. In the chaos, Brauner found himself re-routed to Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola prison. There he was told he’d find a larger facility with better resources to treat inmates needing medical attention. But he says he was denied the surgery that might have helped.