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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

U.S. Prisons and Jails Are Threatening the Lives of Pregnant Women and Babies


U.S. Prisons and Jails Are Threatening the Lives of Pregnant Women and Babies

Features » September 28, 2015
Our 6-month investigation reveals the horrific and shameful conditions facing pregnant prisoners—and the inhumane treatment they receive.
Though the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s women, it has 33 percent of the world’s women prisoners.

BY Victoria Law
At 5 a.m. on June 12, 2012, lying on a mat in a locked jail cell, without a doctor, Nicole Guerrero gave birth.
Guerrero was eight-and-a half months pregnant when she arrived 10 days earlier at Texas’ Wichita County Jail. The medical malpractice lawsuit Guerrero has filed—against the county, the jail’s healthcare contractor, Correctional Healthcare Management, and one of the jail’s nurses, LaDonna Anderson—claims she began experiencing lower back pain, cramps, heavy vaginal discharge and bleeding on June 11. The nurse on duty told her there was no cause for concern until she had bled through two sanitary napkins. Several painful hours later, Guerrero pushed the medical emergency button in her cell.
At 3:30 a.m., more than four hours later, Guerrero was finally taken to the nurse’s station. Guerrero says she showed Anderson her used sanitary pads filled with blood and fluids, but was not examined. Instead, she was taken to a one-person holding cell with no toilet, sink or emergency call button, known as the “cage.” At 5 a.m., her water broke. She called out to Anderson, but, Guerrero says, Anderson refused to check on her. Shortly after, Guerrero felt her daughter’s head breach. A passing guard stopped to assist her, and Guerrero, unable to keep from pushing, gave birth on a blood and pus-covered mattress.
The baby was dark purple and unresponsive, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. When Anderson arrived minutes later, she did not attempt to revive the baby, Guerrero says. The EMTs got there after 20 minutes and rushed the baby to the hospital. Guerrero remained in the cage, where she delivered the placenta. At 6:30 a.m., the baby was pronounced dead.
No data, no problem
The number of women who cycle through U.S. jails is increasing by approximately 1.6 percent each year, to 109,100 in 2014, while the number of women in prisons has risen nearly tenfold in the past 40 years, to 111,300 in 2013. Though the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s women, it has 33 percent of the world’s women prisoners.
There is no current data on how many of those women are pregnant. In 2004, a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey found that 3 percent of women in federal prisons and 4 percent of those in state prisons were pregnant upon arrival. The statistics on pregnancy in local jails is older—a 2002 survey found that 5 percent of women entered local jails pregnant. At those rates, approximately 9,430 pregnant women are incarcerated annually.
There is even less data on what kind of care pregnant prisoners receive: their nutrition, prenatal check-ups and medical attention, which can be a matter of infant life or death in cases like Guerrero’s. Nor do we hear much about the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth under prison conditions, or the heartbreak of having an infant taken away hours after birth.
In a six-month investigation, In These Times reached out to dozens of incarcerated women, activists and advocates, seeking to reach women who had been pregnant behind bars. Twelve came forward to share their stories.
In These Times then requested information about pregnancy care and policies from the prisons and jails where the women were incarcerated. Only four of eight complied. Correct Care Solutions, a contractor that provides healthcare at Nashville’s Davidson County Jail, refused, declaring that private companies do not need to open their records to public scrutiny. Those that did provide records typically took months to do so, and the data was often poor. Phoenix’s Maricopa County Jail records live births, miscarriages and abortions, but not stillbirths. Washington’s Clark County Jail keeps track of the number of medical visits by pregnant women (42 in 2014), but not the number of pregnant women incarcerated.
However, from the 12 individual women’s accounts, a picture began to emerge. Many received no medical care or experienced long waits. Most were constantly hungry. Others were restrained during labor, delivery or postpartum recovery, even in states that ban the practice. The majority of those who gave birth in custody had their infants taken away within 48 hours.
Care and loathing
Medical neglect can endanger the lives of pregnant women as well as fetuses.
Diana Claitor, executive director of the Jail Project of Texas, says she interviewed a young woman whose complaints of extreme pain were dismissed by a jail doctor as morning sickness. But “it was because her fetus had been dead for some time,” says Claitor, who also examined the woman’s medical records. “She was very ill and could have died.” The woman was finally taken to the emergency room, where she delivered the dead fetus.
Bridgette Gibbs says that, despite telling staff of her history of miscarriages, she received no medical attention in two months of pregnancy at the Westchester County, N.Y., jail. She still hadn’t been examined when, early in her second trimester, she went into labor. Before being taken to the hospital, she was strip-searched and shackled at the hands, waist and ankles. She gave birth to twins handcuffed to the bed, and was still handcuffed there hours later when she learned that her premature newborns had died. The hospital told her that the early labor was the result of a treatable infection. (The Westchester County Department of Correction could not confirm or deny her story, saying that it no longer has Gibbs’ records.)
In Arizona, complaints about prison medical care prompted the ACLU and the Prison Law Office to file a class-action suit in 2012. An accompanying investigation uncovered two incidents in the summer of 2013 when officials at the state prison in Perryville dismissed women’s claims that they were going into labor. One woman said that it took two hours to convince the guards to transport her to the hospital. She gave birth 20 minutes after arrival. The other said nurses refused to believe her water had broken even after it tested positive for amniotic fluid. Officers sent her to the hospital only when she began screaming.
‘It hurts to be hungry like that’
Pregnant women especially need nutrient-rich food. It’s typically recommended that they eat three or more servings of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein each day, as well as several servings of whole grain breads or other complex carbohydrates. Nutritional deficits can, for example, increase the risk of gestational diabetes, which can cause a fetus’s trunk and shoulders to become too big for vaginal birth.
“Withholding healthy food from a pregnant woman is withholding medical care,” says Tess Timoney, a certified nurse-midwife and director of women’s HIV services at New York’s Bronx-Lebanon Hospital.
In jails and prisons, meal times, foods and portions are limited. More than half of the dozen women interviewed by In These Times recalled an overwhelming, unrelenting hunger.
Some jails and prisons specify a special pregnancy diet and an additional snack. But women report that these foods are often inadequate.
Twenty-three-year-old Minna Long was pregnant with twins when she entered the Clark County jail in Washington state in 2010. She received an extra 8-ounce carton of milk with all three meals, but, she recalls, “There were countless times the milk was expired and sour and I couldn’t drink it.” Her pregnancy also caused her to feel revulsion toward many of the foods served. During her four months in jail, she subsisted on milk, fruit and cold cereal, as well as commissary purchases of donuts, candy, trail mix, meat and cheese sticks, and flavored popcorn.
Kandyce (who is still incarcerated, and asked that her last name not be used and her prison not be specified, for fear of retaliation) says that when she was pregnant in prison in 2014, between breakfast and dinner was a 12-hour wait. “It hurts to be hungry like that,” she says.
‘I don’t ever want to be pregnant again’
Even when medical care is adequate, the restrictions and confinement inherent in prisons can make pregnancy and birthing traumatic. It is standard policy in U.S. prisons and jails to strip search prisoners upon entering and exiting, including a squat and cough, with no exceptions for pregnant or postpartum women.
A five-year study by the nonprofit Correctional Association of New York found that while there were delays in pregnancy care upon arrival, most women in state prisons then received prenatal care at roughly the frequency recommended by the U.S. Department of Health. Waiting for those visits, however, was often painful. Women were seated for up to five hours on a narrow wooden bench with no food or water. Though pregnant women are supposed to move around frequently to ease muscle tension and prevent fluid build-up, the women were not allowed to stand, and were often threatened with disciplinary tickets if they leaned back.
Kandyce saw a doctor regularly during her pregnancy, but the nurses, she says, strictly enforced the prison’s policies and often refused her doctor’s requests. For instance, her doctor asked for a wedge pillow and an extra mattress to supplement the thin prison mattress. “As you get bigger, they get thinner,” Kandyce recalls. “I’m already heavyset and being pregnant was even worse—I couldn’t really breathe if I wasn’t propped up.” The nurses denied her the pillow but allowed extra blankets. Those were confiscated by officers in the monthly room search, however, and each time, Kandyce had to go to the sergeant to get them back. “By the time I was eight months pregnant, I was really frustrated,” she said.
Medical staff told Kandyce that she needed a caesarean section. The night before, she was placed in the prison’s Inpatient Unit. “You’re in a room by yourself—no TV, no book, no nothing,” she recalls. “All you do is sit in this room by yourself. You know that you’re about to have your baby [and] that you’re going to have to give your daughter up. All you have time to do is think about it.” By 11 a.m., when officers arrived to transport her to the hospital, she no longer wanted to go through with it. “I just wanted to keep my baby with me.”
Normally, caesarean sections require only regional anesthesia, but when Kandyce arrived at the hospital, she was so stressed and anxious that the doctor—a man she had never met—decided to put her to sleep. “My daughter was going to be here and everything was wrong,” she recalls thinking. Her daughter was born healthy, but the entire experience was so devastating that Kandyce says, “I don’t ever want to be pregnant again.”
Each time Minna Long went to court, jail staff placed her in handcuffs, ankle cuffs and a waist chain, a practice known as shackling. Then, they stopped. Washington had become the seventh state to pass legislation restricting the shackling of pregnant women. That was in 2010; fourteen states have followed suit.
But advocacy groups in California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas have found that the practice persists despite bans. Sierra Watts, 37, incarcerated in Washington state just after the law went into effect, learned this firsthand. While she was allowed to give birth without restraints, she was then cuffed to the bed. Her son was placed in a cradle next to her. “I just had to lean over to get him out, but it’s harder when you can’t move that far,” she says.
The Washington State Department of Corrections says that “a post-incident review determined she was not supposed to be cuffed.”
Sierra’s choice
For Sierra Watts, the worst part wasn’t the shackling, but what followed. Although she had granted her mother temporary guardianship, child welfare workers told her that they would not send her son to live with his grandmother. After spending 24 hours with her newborn, Watts was taken back to prison without knowing her son’s fate. Because he was born on a Friday, he was to remain in the hospital until child welfare offices opened on Monday.
As Watts tells this story, her eyes fill with tears.“He was going to stay in the hospital with nobody holding him, nobody knows where he’s going, nobody’s even going to tell me where he’s going,” she says. “Nobody said [to me], ‘It’s going to be okay. We’re going to watch him. We won’t let anything happen to him.’ ” She did not learn where he was placed until the following Tuesday. The next—and last—time she saw him in person was during a prison visit one year later, shortly before he was adopted.
Under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, if a child is in foster care for 15 of 22 months, the state must begin proceedings to terminate parental rights. Watts says that she initially fought to maintain custody, but finally signed away her rights. “They told me that if I was to take it to trial and lose, then I wouldn’t be able to get photos or hear how he’s doing or send him cards or anything,” she says. She receives photos of her son, age 3, several times a year, but never sees or speaks to him.
That’s relatively common for incarcerated women who give birth; two other women interviewed by In These Times arranged for their babies to be adopted.
By contrast, when Michelle Barton, 37, gave birth in an Oklahoma prison in 2013, she knew that her baby would be safe with her sister-in-law, who was already taking care of Barton’s 3-year-old son until her release from prison. But she still cried when it was time to leave the hospital. Upon her return to prison, she was reminded how little motherhood means there. A nurse had given her a piece of paper with her daughter’s footprint. The officer who strip-searched her upon arrival threw it away. “Getting strip searched is nothing,” Barton says, but watching her daughter’s footprint tossed into the garbage “just tore my heart out.”
Another way
Michelle Barton’s daughter was 18 months old when Barton was released from prison in August. She boarded a bus to Oklahoma City with only the clothes on her back. Although she has a job lined up at Church’s Chicken, she is homeless and cannot reclaim her two young children from her sister-in-law until she finds affordable housing.
The Mabel Bassett Correctional Center spends $14,800 per year to incarcerate each woman. Barton was there for nearly two years. What if that $29,600 had been spent directly on resources for her and her family?
Oklahoma’s incarceration cost is dramatically low. At the Washington Corrections Center for Women, incarcerating each woman costs $44,400 per year. Sierra Watts was sentenced to 40 months. What if the $148,000 spent to imprison her had instead been spent to help her stay out of the prison system?
The UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, known as the Bangkok Rules, recommend that for a pregnant woman or a child’s primary caregiver, “non-custodial measures should be preferred where possible and appropriate.” But pregnancy and parenting are rarely taken into consideration in the U.S. legal system. Across the nation, more than 120,000 mothers and 1.1 million fathers of children under 18 are behind bars. Approximately 10 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives.
Recognizing that maternal incarceration can devastate children, some states are exploring alternatives. In November 2014, the Delaware Department of Correction created New Expectations, a group home for pregnant women with drug addictions who would otherwise be imprisoned. The home provides meals, prenatal vitamins, clothing, toys, intensive substance abuse counseling, and classes on infant care, parenting, breastfeeding, nutrition and budgeting. But the facility is run by the Department of Corrections and its healthcare provider, Connections Community Support Programs, and the doors are locked and alarmed.
By contrast, New York City’s Drew House and JusticeHome operate independently of the prison system. To be eligible, mothers must plead guilty to felony charges—but the charges are dismissed once they complete the program. In the meantime, they avoid prison, and their children avoid foster care.
Olgita Blackwood’s youngest child was barely a week old when she was arrested. “I was so worried about my kids,” she told the Associated Press. “They depend on me. They asked for me every day.” The 24-year-old was sent to Drew House instead of prison, enabling her to stay with her three children. Nearly two years later, as she prepared to take her GED, she said that the program made her independent. “I can make decisions on my own, raise my kids. I can’t imagine it any other way now.”
What if such alternatives to incarceration were available everywhere?
The Bangkok Rules recognize that women’s needs are unmet in a prison model designed for men and that women’s incarceration is often a result of layers of gender discrimination. In addition to recommending non-custodial measures for pregnant women, the UN urges countries to establish alternatives to imprisonment for all women.
If the United States took these ideas seriously—or at least took seriously its basic healthcare responsibilities in its prisons and jails—today, Nicole Guerrero might be watching her 3-year-old daughter, Myrah Arianna, scamper around the playground. 
This investigation was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting.
Freedom Archives 

Free All Political Prisoners!

Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org

Elderly Visitor at Florence Federal Correctional Institute's (FCI) Satellite Camp Falls and Sustains Injury During Visiting Hours Despite A Just Cause's Attempts to Alert the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of the Risks

Source: A Just Cause

A Just Cause 
September 29, 2015 06:00 ET

Elderly Visitor at Florence Federal Correctional Institute's (FCI) Satellite Camp Falls and Sustains Injury During Visiting Hours Despite A Just Cause's Attempts to Alert the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of the Risks

During a June 2015 DC Trip, A Just Cause Executives Were Removed From BOP Offices; BOP May Face Suit From Injured Visitor at Florence Satellite Camp After Sustaining Injuries From a Fall

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - September 29, 2015) - During visiting hours on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at Florence Federal Correctional Institute's Satellite Camp, Sarah Harper, a visitor to the camp, fell out of a plastic chair after the legs buckled and gave way. Harper, a 68 year old woman, felt excruciating pain in her lower back after her chair suddenly gave way. Prison officials called an ambulance.
Initially, prison officials asked Harper if she would prefer to be seen in Pueblo or Colorado Springs; she opted for Colorado Springs since she lives there; however, when the ambulance arrived, prison officials told Harper there would be no choice. She was required to be seen in Cañon City, Colorado at the facility of their choosing. Harper became immediately suspicious after this sudden change and friends took her to a Colorado Springs hospital for evaluation and treatment. Soon thereafter, prison officials ended visits early; with no specified reason, everyone was sent home early.
"I wondered why I suddenly had to go so far away from home for treatment after I was initially given a choice and told the guard I wanted to go to Colorado Springs," pondered Harper. "Everyone from the guard to the ambulance drivers seemed in on the plan to get me to go to Cañon City," states Harper. "I found out the Cañon City facility is used by the prison for the care of inmates. I didn't want to risk a less than comprehensive evaluation or limited treatment if I was forced to go to the facility of the prison's choice," says Harper.
"Florence's Satellite Camp recently switched to flimsy plastic chairs, assigned seating, and a multitude of other new rules in the visiting room," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause. "On Wednesday, June 17, I was accompanied by Cliff and Lisa Stewart to BOP in Washington DC to convey concerns of harassment toward children and families while visiting the prison camp in Florence, Colorado. We contacted the BOP to announce that we would be there on that date, but we were escorted out of the BOP by Federal Protective Services," notes Banks. "We were attempting to warn them about the hazards of the chairs, among other inequities that were occurring during visiting hours. This incident with Ms. Harper could have been avoided," laments Banks.
A June 18, 2015 Press Release details the unfair treatment of A Just Cause executives and how Bureau of Prisons officials in DC failed to meet with them despite the concerns raised with respect to the Florence Federal Prison Camp visiting situation. "A Just Cause remains very disappointed at the lack of response and action on the part of the BOP," states Banks. "Multiple phone calls and emails from our organization have gone unanswered," Banks added.
"When you think about the behemoth organization that is the Federal Bureau of Prisons, with a FY2015 budget of $8.5 billion, there's no reason why visitors are sitting in flimsy plastic chairs," notes Cliff Stewart of A Just Cause. "Ms. Harper is not the first to fall out of the chairs; an elderly gentleman fell in the visiting room a few weeks ago and heavier inmates tend to stack them before sitting in them to reinforce the legs while watching television in the units," says Stewart. "These chairs are clearly a hazard and need to be immediately removed before further injuries occur," warns Stewart.
Visitors, particularly those from out of town, were surprised and very disappointed by visits being cut short. Many are rarely able to visit due to the cost of travel and accommodations, so they want to maximize the time with their family members. The abrupt end was never explained.
"A Just Cause vows to continue to follow this case and attempt to reach out to Director Samuels and other BOP officials about the situation in the Florence Federal Prison Camp's visiting room," affirms Banks.
For more information about advocacy group, A Just Cause, go to: www.a-justcause.com.
For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to http://www.freetheirp6.org.
Related press releases: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!2015-press-releases/cl69

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

People's Attorney Liz Fink Dies!

From the desk of Baba Zayid Muhammad
Ä turtle cannot go forward unless he first sticks his neck out…”
Malcolm X
September 23, 2015
A legend among American ‘Radical’ lawyers, and a quintessential New Yorker, Liz Fink has passed away. 
Fink passed away on Tuesday evening September 22nd.
Mentored by the late William Kunstler, Fink was a gladiator in the ring for people’s causes.
            She is probably best known for her representation of the ‘Attica Brothers,’ survivors of the vicious state repression of the Attica Uprising.
In 1971, from September 9 to September 14th, prisoners at upstate Attica New York took over that facility to demand the end of cruel and abusive treatment by prison guards and its administration. Well organized, very disciplined and incredibly eloquent, the uprising’s leaders went to great pains to take good care of the prison officials who they held hostage to demonstrate the humanitarian essence of their concerns. It drew media attention from all over the world with its humane and eloquent character.
However, NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller, an aspirant for the 1972 presidential election, decided that the uprising was getting too much good press and that he was getting too much bad press.  He then ordered the military assault on the nonviolent uprising that resulted in 38 deaths and legions of prisoners being seriously injured. The brutality of the assault is also well documented as many prisoners, especially the participants in the uprising, were stripped naked, lined up and savagely beaten after the facility was re-secured.
It was this graphic abuse that brought a class action lawsuit against the State of New York that put Fink in the forefront of critical legal human rights battles in the Black Liberation Movement. Fink stayed with the case and fought tirelessly for their justice until the courts granted the surviving victims a 12 million dollar settlement.
“The Attica Rebellion truly needs to be appreciated in the most serious terms,” said Zayid Muhammad of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee.
“Not only did it trigger key reforms in prisons throughout the country, including educational and training opportunities and the hiring of Black and Latino prison guards, it was an amazing display of the humanity of the Black man in America from the lowest position in this prison nation.
“When those men, when they finally needed someone to speak for them and what they faced, they were ferociously represented by the incredible Liz Fink,” he finished emphatically.
In addition to the Ohio 7 case, Fink and Bob Boyle also represented Black Panther legend Dhoruba Bin Wahad. Bin Wahad, one of the few Panther political prisoners to secure to his release from the COINTELPRO convictions facing so many of his comrades, said bluntly and greatly pained that "ïf it wasn’t for Liz Fink, I would have never been released."
She also negotiated a shorter prison for another people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, when Stewart was charged with aiding the “terror activity” of her client Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman from Egypt.
            She also negotiated the transfer of political prisoner Sylvia Baraldini back to her native Italy whereupon Baraldini was ultimately released.
            Most recently, she secured the acquittal of a Jordanian college student, Osama Awadallah, from 9/11 terrorism charges. The prosecutor in the case was so enraged by Fink’s trademark ferocious defense of her client, he personally charged her with “jeopardizing the republic” in the middle of the case.
            Fink laughed and mocked that she would like “that one on my tombstone."
Free All Political Prisoners!

At Louisiana’s Angola Prison, Lawsuit Claims, the Sick Face Neglect, Isolation, and Death

Men incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, are suing prison officials and the Louisiana Department of Corrections for failing to provide adequate healthcare to the more than 6,000 people currently held there.
In a scathing, 63-page complaint, lawyers representing Angola’s prison population allege that men are routinely denied appropriate medical care, resulting in “unnecessary pain and suffering, exacerbation of existing conditions, permanent disability, disfigurement, and even death.” The class-action suit, Lewis v. Cain, was filed in the United States District Court in the Middle District of Louisiana and alleges violations of the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that disabled prisoners receive reasonable access to programs, services, and activities.
The complaint was filed in May by the Promise of Justice Initiative, the Advocacy Center, the ACLU of Louisiana, and the law firm Cohen Milstein. It details dozens of examples of inadequate care culled from the experiences of over 200 poeple, painting a picture of callousness, neglect, and even cruelty. According to the complaint:
  • Lead plaintiff Joseph Lewis, who is 81 years old, was experiencing chronic throat problems for over two years, including coughing, spitting up mucus, and burning sensations. The only remedy prescribed by the prison doctors was Q-Tussin, an over-the-counter spray. After a visit from his attorneys, Lewis finally received a biopsy and was diagnosed with throat cancer.
  • Plaintiff Kentrell Parker, who is quadriplegic and cannot move any body part below his neck, was placed in solitary confinement in 2014 for complaining about his lack of care – despite the fact that he is totally incapable of notifying prison staff from his isolation cell should an emergency arise. Mr. Parker also alleges that he has often missed meals because, while food is delivered to his cell, medical staff is frequently unavailable to feed it to him. He claims he is regularly left to sit in his own feces for hours at a time due to chronic understaffing, and as a result he was recently diagnosed with a blood infection from bacteria entering his blood from his stool.
  • A 75-year-old man believed he was having a stroke due to numbness in his body, but was only examined after his fourth request to prison officials. Early intervention is critical during a stroke, and as a result of the delay in treatment, the man is now blind, unable to walk, and has difficulty chewing.
  • Plaintiff Otto Barrera, who is missing his lower jaw as the result of a gunshot wound and is unable to eat or take medication without an enteral tube, was referred for reconstructive surgery in 2014. Prison officials denied the request, deeming the surgery “cosmetic.” Mr. Berrera has been prescribed a “soft diet” but is given the same food as the other prisoners, forcing him to tear the food up into small pieces and place it in the back of his mouth to attempt to swallow.
  • James Johnson received treatment for multiple myeloma until 2012, when it was determined that the cost of treatment was prohibitive. His chemotherapy was replaced with steroids, which caused his legs to swell and his blood sugar to remain elevated. Mr. Johnson died last year, shortly after noting that doctors were only making the rounds once every month or two.
The complaint goes on to describe, in its words, “horror story after horror story” – a paralysis that could have been prevented, a torn knee ligament that was identified then ignored, a softball-sized hernia that required but did not receive surgery, a degenerative joint condition that has awaited surgery for a decade, endlessly delayed biopsies, and even a 16-year wait for a cane for a blind man.
This is not the first time that Angola has been accused of having inadequate health care. In the early 1990s, the Department of Justice intervened as a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit called Lynn v. Williams that accused prison officials of many of the same deficiencies that are currently at issue. The DOJ summarized its findings as follows: “The medical care at LSP is grossly deficient. The medical care delivery system at LSP fails to recognize, diagnose, treat, or monitor the serious medical needs of LSP inmates, including serious chronic illnesses and dangerous infectious and contagious diseases… As a result of inadequate medical care at LSP, inmates have suffered and continue to suffer serious harm and even death.”
One of the areas of particular concern to the DOJ was the use of solitary confinement to house sick prisoners. As they noted at the time, “Defendants’ use of isolation rooms in the infirmary is improper and dangerous. Defendants place seriously ill patients in locked rooms that may adversely affect their medical conditions. Nurses in the nursing station are unable to see or hear inmates in the locked isolation rooms and infrequently check on the inmates in these rooms.”
Michael Puissis, who served as the plaintiffs’ medical expert in that lawsuit, observed that sick prisoners were often kept in locked cells unnecessarily. “These rooms have heavy gauge steel doors with a small (approximately 6 inch) viewing panel. Patients must gain the attention of nursing staff by screaming and banging on the door. Nurses sit behind an enclosed viewing area, which muffles sound from the ward. There is no nursing call button in these rooms. On the day of my visit, an infirm AIDS patient, who had difficulty walking, was locked up in one of these rooms because he was described as an escape risk.”
Fast-forward 23 years later, and it would appear that little has changed. The current warden, Burl Cain, is the same warden who ran the prison in 1998, when a consent decree was temporarily issued to resolve some of the problems enumerated by the DOJ. According to the Lewis plaintiffs, medical assistance is constantly delayed or denied, or offered only after individuals bring in attorneys and threaten litigation. Prescriptions go unfilled. Medical devices are virtually nonexistent. Record-keeping is inadequate. Men are threatened with disciplinary action for seeking medical care if they are deemed to be “malingering.” Untrained staff and prisoners are doing the work of doctors. And the list goes on.
The lawsuit even points out that one of the Defendants, Stephanie Lamartiniere, who is responsible for oversight and supervision of the entire medical staff at Angola, has no medical background. Her previous job? Warden Cain’s secretary.
What the complaint does not mention is the fact that many doctors working in state prisons have had histories of disciplinary actions that preclude them from practicing medicine in non-institutional settings. The problem is particularly prevalent in Louisiana, according to a 2012 investigative journalism piece by the Times-Picayune.  The newspaper uncovered that 60 percent of the doctors practicing in Louisiana state prisons had been disciplined by the state medical board for violations ranging from possession of child pornography to dealing methamphetamine to sexually abusing patients. This compares to 2 percent of the state’s non-prison physicians. Four of the doctors named in the article were working at Angola at the time of publication.
The plaintiffs in Lewis are seeking to force Angola to beef up their medical staff, provide patients access to needed surgeries, offer timely and competent responses to emergencies, improve sanitary conditions, and better accommodate the disabled, among other objectives. If successful, the suit could catalyze improvements at other correctional facilities seeking to avoid similar litigation.

Freedom Archives
Free All Political Prisoners!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Which Side Are You On? REMIX - Rebel Diaz ft. Dead Prez and Rakaa Irisci...

We are living historic moments of oppression, to which the people
have the right to respond with historic moments of resistance. The Which
Side Are You On REMIX came out on our Radical Dilemma album, but the
time is NOW for the song and the message it represents. It was an honor
to link with Dead Prez and the comrade Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated
Peoples, artists whose shoulders we stand on, who have paved the way for
a Rebel Diaz. From #Baltimore to #Ferguson to #Chicago to
#TheSouthBronx to #LosAngeles and beyond.. #WhichSideAreYouOn?!

Which Side Are You On? Remix. By Rebel Diaz ft. Dead Prez and Rakaa Iriscience

Produced by: G1 of Rebel Diaz and Sam Jones

Additional Instrumentation: Rude Mechanical Orquestra, Grupo Raiz

Album: Radical Dilemma

Directed by: Sense Hernandez

Monday, 21 September 2015

Benefit cap is a housing benefit cut. It hurts families with council tax benefit & other cuts. Together they are fatal Please re-tweet and share.

Benefit cap is a housing benefit cut. It hurts families with council tax benefit & other cuts.
Together they are fatal.
The benefit cap is a housing benefit caps that hurts families. It was smuggled into public acceptance by the coalition government with the misleading strap line " It is not fair on hardworking families that the unemployed should have a higher income than the employed".
David Cameron in the Daily Mail; "Hard-working taxpayers were left to pick up the tab – and often they had lower incomes than those they supported on welfare. This is about ending that injustice".
The real injustice is that benefits are being cut to the bone to enable tax cuts for those who could afford to do much more to reduce the deficit.
They will now reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 which cuts the housing benefit ever deeper as rents rise.
It is vital to understand and broadcast how the so called benefit cap works. I have posted a detailed explanation on the TAP website.
Please re-tweet and share.
Taxpayers Against Poverty

M1 From Dead Prez comes to Baltimore and Live Stream

For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com
from Dead prez come to Baltimore for a lecture/ concert with Watoto
From the Nile for more info hit us on daddywatoto@gmail.com