PRISON AUDITS RAISE CONCERNS
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, February 08, 2003 11:38 PM
Prison audits raise concerns
The state has an obligation to provide adequate medical care to the prisoners in its custody. A series of health care audits found some troubling situations in Alabama prisons.
Forget all the nonsense about coddling criminals; no one who has been inside an Alabama prison would mistake it for a resort. But however unappealing the surroundings may be, the state has an obligation to provide adequate medical care to the prisoners in its custody.
A series of health care audits found some troubling situations in Alabama prisons. The audits were conducted at eight institutions between May and August of last year. They were released this week by the state's new prison commissioner, Donal Campbell. His predecessor, Mike Haley, had refused to release them.
The findings included a backlog of six weeks in dental services at Tutwiler Prison for Women, the prison in which a federal court recently found conditions to be unconstitutional. Lawyers who filed that suit say the audit backs up the testimony of inmates, some of whom have pulled their own teeth rather than endure the pain of abscesses until they could see a dentist. The state faces a Feb. 21 deadline for presenting a plan to correct the problems.
Another alarming finding occurred at St. Clair Correctional Facility, where an audit found about 1,400 doses of controlled substances stored in the health services administrator's office "that were not counted or recorded." As the report noted, that invites theft of these drugs, with implications for the safety of inmates and prison personnel, as well as for the security of the institution.
Health care in the prisons is provided through NaphCare, a Birmingham based management contractor. That arrangement clearly should be reviewed closely by Campbell.
The commissioner also should promptly determine the extent -- if any -- to which the problems identified in the audits have been addressed. He should then issue his own report on that. The problems are his to deal with now, and he will do his boss -- Gov. Riley -- and the taxpayers of Alabama a considerable service by presenting a clear picture of the prison system's status.