03 February 2012

Medical Care Of Incarcerated People Deeply Flawed

Today's highlights of correctional official disregard for the health of inmates involve, this case out of Seattle, Washington:

A woman has won $975,000 in a federal jury trial, 14 years after giving birth in a jail cell in Washington state. . . . Imka Pope's civil rights case against King County. . . . [J]ail nurses and corrections officers violated her civil rights in 1997 by dismissing her claims that she was pregnant. She had been arrested for sleeping on a bench at a Metro bus stop. . . . jail health officials locked her in a cell and ignored her for six days. She got help after a guard heard a baby crying.

Let us count the ways. Why is someone arrested for sleeping on a bench incarcerated for six days without an arraignment? Does arresting people for simply being homeless make any sense in the first place? How do you not notice that somoeone in nine months pregnant even after being alerted to the fact? How do you not notice that someone is in labor until after the baby is born? Do we really trust people like this to maintain security in a jail full of real criminals?

Then we have the case of twenty-six year old Inmate Terrell Griswold at the Bent County Correctional Facility in Colorado, a private prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America, who was serving a three year term for theft. According to a medical investigator hired to investigate his death, died in October of 2010 because his "inability to urinate was never treated and ultimately led to his death" despite the fact that this is a treatable condition that almost never causes death with appropriate medical treatment. The coroner who determined the cause of death for the death certificate didn't necessarily contradict that assessment:

The El Paso County coroner's office determined that the cause of death was cardiac hypertrophy, hypertension, obstructive uropathy and hereditary cardiac hypertrophy. The coroner, Dr. Robert C. Bux, characterized Griswold's urinary condition as a secondary cause of death to hypertension and an enlarged heart. However, he added that the blockage could have caused hypertension and contributed to an enlarged heart.

Denver has had its share of similar cases over the years.

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