As the result of extreme overcrowding, budget cuts, and the profit priorities of for-profit health care providers, people in prisons, jails and detention facilities with medical needs suffer from poor medical care.
When someone who is detained gets sick, he or she cannot decide to make an appointment with their doctor, visit the emergency room, or even run down to the corner store to buy some aspirin. In detention, a person who is sick is entirely at the mercy of the prison or jail for their medical care.
Substandard medical care has created a public health crisis, with more than 600,000 people are being released from prison every year and going home to their communities, carrying with them both infectious diseases and medical conditions requiring immediate attention and resources. Medical failures are particularly pervasive in jails, where detainees with serious medical needs are often ignored by a system that knows the average length of stay for jail detainees is 3 months. Rather than treat the individual as a patient, medical systems in jails more often treat them as problems that will leave their jurisdiction in a matter of months.
To ensure adequate medical care for people who are incarcerated, SCHR brings class action lawsuits. Some examples of litigation that has improved critical medical care:
In 2002, SCHR filed Laube v. Allen, a class action lawsuit on behalf of all of the Alabama women prisoners naming the Alabama Department of Corrections as the Defendant. In addition to claims about severe overcrowding, horrendous conditions, and awful mental health care, the lawsuit contended that the level of medical care the ADOC was providing to the women was unconstitutional. After a Preliminary Injunction hearing, Federal District Court Judge Myron Thompson issued a Preliminary Injunction Order on December 2, 2002 granting the women’s request for emergency relief. Judge Thompson declared Tutwiler to be unconstitutionally unsafe, and ordered the state to submit a plan for improving the conditions at Tutwiler. A plan was submitted and changes at the prison were initiated. The parties signed a Medical Settlement Agreement June 25, 2004, which became part of the Court's Consent Order when Judge Thompson ordered defendants to comply with all provisions of the Agreement. By order of the Court, medical monitors visit Tutwiler, Birmingham Work Release and Montgomery Women’s Facility on a quarterly basis to determine whether the ADOC is following the terms of the Consent Order.
In November 2002, SCHR filed Leatherwood v. Campbell, a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of all male HIV-positive prisoners incarcerated at Limestone Correctional Facility in Harvest, Alabama. The lawsuit challenged the inadequate medical treatment and deplorable housing provided to HIV-positive men at the facility. The defendants named in the lawsuit were the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and NaphCare Inc., the state’s former private medical provider. In 2004, the Alabama Department of Corrections and the plaintiffs entered into a two-year settlement agreement in which the Defendants agreed to improve medical care for HIV-positive prisoners at Limestone by ensuring that all prisoners received their medications, by hiring a full-time HIV Specialist, and by improving the living conditions for HIV-positive prisoners at the institution. In 2005, SCHR filed for contempt as, a year into the settlement agreement, HIV-positive men at Limestone were still encountering serious problems obtaining their medications and the ADOC had failed to maintain a full-time HIV specialist on staff. In 2006, the settlement agreement automatically terminated, as its two-year term had expired.
In April 1999, SCHR filed Foster v. Fulton County, a class action lawsuit on behalf of all present and future HIV-positive detainees at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, GA against approximately 25 defendants, including Fulton County, and Correctional Healthcare Solutions, Inc. ("CHS"), the private medical care company providing services at the jail at the time that the lawsuit was filed. In the two years leading up to the filing of the lawsuit, 23 HIV-positive detainees had died at the jail. In 2000, the case was settled by order of Federal District Court Judge Marvin Shoob. This litigation resulted in remarkable long-term improvements in medical care at the Fulton County Jail, benefiting the Metropolitan Atlanta area and the thousands of people housed in the Jail each year.
|Title||Publication||Date of Publication|
|SCHR Report Details Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Priorities||10/21/2011|
|SCHR Releases 5th Edition of Georgia Advocacy Handbook: A Guide to Helping Loved Ones in Georgia Prisons||11/09/2009|
|Alabama Sheriff Locked in Own Jail For Feeding Inmates Skimpy Meals||Associated Press||01/08/2009|
|Bartlett Busted: U.S. Marshals Arrest Morgan County Sheriff||WHNT News Channel 19 Transcript||01/08/2009|
|As His Inmates Grew Thinner, a Sheriff’s Wallet Grew Fatter||New York Times||01/08/2009|
|Sheriff jailed for pocketing money meant for inmate meals||CNN||01/09/2008|
|Lawsuit slows AIDS death march at LCF||The News Courier||09/09/2006|
|Cutting a deal at Tutwiler||The Birmingham News||08/28/2006|
|A Company's Troubled Answer for Prisoners With H.I.V.||The New York Times||08/01/2005|
|State withholds prison medical payment||The Birmingham News||05/05/2005|
|Femail Prisoners try to gain Prison, Parole Reform||The Birmingham News||04/01/2005|
|Inmate Care Lags, Lawyers Say||The Huntsville Times||02/19/2005|
|Settlement filed in Tutwiler prison suit||The Birmingham News||06/29/2004|
|State settles suit on care for HIV-positive prisoners||The Birmingham News||05/27/2004|
|Alabama Prison at Center of Suit Over AIDS Policy||The New York Times||10/26/2003|
|`Medical failure' blamed in HIV inmate deaths||The Birmingham News||08/28/2003|
|Lawsuit may shed defendants||Atlanta Joural Constitution||06/27/2003|
|Tutwiler warden copes with 'ticking time bomb'||The Birmingham News||04/08/2003|
|Audit: Prison health care poor||The Birmingham News||02/13/2003|
|On the cheap||The Birmingham News||12/20/2002|
|Ticking time bomb||The Birmingham News||12/05/2002|
|Suspects Lacking Lawyers are freed in Atlanta||The New York Times||06/04/2002|