----- Original Message -----
From: Carol Leonard
To: email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2005 3:22 AM
Subject: Alabama: (Mis)treating state prisoners
(Mis)treating state prisoners
In our opinion
Historically, Alabama has never placed a high priority on the care of its inmates. Like many states, Alabama is often in a locking-up mood when it comes to wrongdoers. We don't mind building prisons and then filling them up. Once these men and women are behind bars, though, it's out of sight, out of mind.
Like a lot of states, Alabama also outsources the medical care of inmates in an effort to cut costs. The problems associated with the hiring out of health care for prisoners are becoming more obvious by the day. It's beyond debate - or at least it should be - that prisoners should not be denied proper medical treatment. To do otherwise would be cruelly inhumane and a violation of the human rights of inmates.
In 2003 following reports of deaths and various abuses, Alabama dropped its contract with Naphcare, a company specializing in treating prisoners. The state replaced the firm with Prison Health Services, a Nashville-based company. That decision is looking like a mistake.
Last month, The New York Times reported that New York officials are blaming the deaths of more than 20 inmates on PHS' lax policies.
Closer to home, the Birmingham News recently reported on the deaths of two Alabama inmates under the care of Prison Health Services.
Independent observers as well as the families of Tutwiler Prison for Women inmates Teresa Morris, who died March 6, and Edna Britt, who died March 23, point to Prison Health Services shortcomings. Morris, who was a diabetic, was allegedly taken off her insulin. And advocates are questioning the circumstances surrounding the death Britt, who had recently been treated for cancer.
At Donaldson, Tutwiler and Limestone prisons, the complaints center on denial of medicines and a gross shortage of medical personnel. Previous challenges on behalf of prisoners have put these three facilities under heightened scrutiny.
Dr. Joseph Bick is a physician assigned to observe conditions at Limestone, where inmates with HIV are housed. He has written, "Interviews with patients, chart reviews and feedback from physicians support the concern that patients are not consistently given the medications that have been ordered for them for serious life-threatening conditions."
The Department of Corrections can outsource all it wants, but in the end, state inmates are the responsibility of the state. It's time to start asking hard questions.
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