----- Original Message -----
From: H Jones
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2003 6:22 PM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] FW: String of Deaths at Chowchilla Prison in 10 Days
Dear Justice Now friend:
We released information today surrounding the deaths of three of our clients at CCWF in a period of 10 days. The press release follows. KPFA will report on this story in tonight's 6 o'clock news report. We are hoping that other media outlets will cover the story as well.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
For more information
Alice do Valle, Justice Now, 510-839-7654 ext. 4#, cell. 510-499-4361
Woman¹s Death at Chowchilla Prison is Third in String of Suspicious Deaths in 10 Days
Medical Neglect and Failure to Recommend Early Release of Terminally Ill Prisoners As Required by Law To Blame
Chowchilla, CA Another woman died yesterday, July 29th, at the Central California Women¹s Facility (CCWF) in a string of three deaths in 10 days resulting from medical neglect, indifference and failure by that institution¹s medical staff to recommend early release of terminally ill prisoners.
³It¹s outrageous that women are dying in the custody of the California Department of Corrections because of horrendous substandard medical care and failure to adhere to the law,² said Cynthia Chandler, the Co-director of Justice Now, a non-profit that works with women in prison to promote health and justice. Justice Now had been working with all three women to advocate for community standard medical care on their behalf.
The most recent death was that of 44-year-old Jeanette LaPlat yesterday who was in the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) at CCWF. Ms. LaPlat, who suffered from Hepatitis C and who was overmedicated with Lactulose, a medication for constipation, died of liver failure we estimate. Although Ms. LaPlat¹s condition deteriorated rapidly, a prison doctor told a Justice Now Legal Advocate that Ms. LaPlat ³would be fine.² Ms.
LaPLat¹s one fear was that she would die in prison before her release next year.
³Even when they knew she was going to die they didn¹t recommend her for early release because they didn¹t want to admit how sick she became in their care,² said Darci Byrd, Jeanette¹s sister.
Compassionate Release is a California law that allows for the release of terminally ill prisoners with six months or less to live and whose release would not pose a threat to society.
Marina Ramirez was 51 years old when she died on July 26th of a complication from multiple myeloma, a type of bone cancer. Despite the seriousness of her illness, prison staff unnecessarily delayed issuing bed-ridden Ms. Ramirez a compassionate release recommendation until about 20 days before she died. Ms. Ramirez remained in critical condition shackled on a ventilator and handcuffed to her hospital bed until her release.
³Unfortunately to Ms. Ramirez and her family, this delay meant that she was out of custody for only hours and died in the hospital near the prison instead of at home in the care of her family,² said Courtaney Wilson, a Justice Now Legal Advocate working on Ms. Ramirez¹ case.
Melody Osburn, who died in prison on July 19th at 46 years of age, had been battling lung cancer since 1998. In the last few months, although Ms. Osburn had reported increasing pain and discomfort, doctors at CCWF insisted that her cancer was in remission and took her off all pain medication. She didn¹t get any medical attention until she threw up blood all over her cell on June 30th and was rushed to Madera Community Hospital.
³They knew she was terminally ill, but didn¹t want to start a compassionate release process. So they told her the cancer was in remission even though it wasn¹t,² said Patti Hagen, a friend of Ms. Osburn. ³Worst yet, they made her suffer enormously by taking away her pain medication while the cancer ate away her lungs.²
Supporters of Ms. Osburn¹s release circulated a petition inside of CCWF that gathered 1,342 signatories, including correctional officers and prisoners. ³Melody was highly esteemed by all and I hope that her death helps highlight the callous ways women are dealt with in prison,² Ms. Hagen added.
³These deaths highlight the chronic problems that persist in prison healthcare: medical neglect, indifference and failure to follow the law, to name a few,² Ms. Chandler said. ³Prisons are institutions that function through secrecy, dehumanization and abuse. In this environment, even a minor sentence becomes a death sentence.
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