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A costly week for IDOC and Wexford

Friday, Dec 20, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Illinois Times yesterday

An inmate at Taylorville Correctional Center has won $11 million after his kidney cancer was neither promptly diagnosed nor treated.

After a weeklong trial, the jury award entered Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Springfield might be cold comfort to William Dean, who is still listed as a prisoner on the Illinois Department of Corrections website. Dean, 59, is serving a 15-year sentence for a cocaine conviction.

“He has stage four cancer,” says Craig Martin, a Chicago lawyer who represented Dean. “It’s terminal.”

The verdict of $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages came against Wexford Health Sources and its employees. Wexford holds a state contract worth nearly $1.4 billion to provide health care to inmates in state prisons.

* Also from the Illinois Times yesterday

The Illinois State Supreme Court today ruled that settlements reached in malpractice claims against the company that provides care for inmates in Illinois prisons are public records.

The ruling ends a legal battle that began four years ago, when Illinois Times asked the Illinois Department of Corrections for a copy of a settlement reached in the case of Alfonso Franco, a Taylorville Correctional Center inmate who died of colon cancer in 2012. According to a federal lawsuit filed against Wexford Health Services, a Pennsylvania company that holds a $1.36 billion contract with the state to provide medical care in state prisons, Franco’s deterioration was obvious and his condition treatable if it had been properly and promptly diagnosed. Instead, he languished to the point that he was emaciated and in diapers before he was finally sent to a hospital, where doctors quickly diagnosed late-stage cancer. He died one month later. He was 53. Franco was doing time for a cocaine conviction.

While the newspaper requested just one settlement agreement, Don Craven, attorney for Illinois Times, said that the ruling goes beyond just Franco. “All settlements with medical contractors for state and local governments are in the public purview at this point,” Craven said.

* WBEZ last month

Multiple Illinois prisoners say they have been denied eye surgery because of a “one good eye” policy that only entitles them to have one functioning eye. […]

The Illinois Department of Corrections and Wexford Health Sources, the private company that provides health services in the state’s prisons, both refused to answer questions about the allegations raised by Cox, Fiedler and other prisoners about a “one good eye” policy. Both the department and the company refused to provide a copy of the eye surgery policy stating it is a “trade secret.”

But court documents from a 2014 lawsuit filed by a different prisoner give some insight into the trade secret: The documents include affidavits from doctors working for Wexford that say they denied a prisoner’s eye surgery because one functioning eye is sufficient for the daily activities of a prisoner. Those court filings also include a copy of a Wexford eye policy from that time that says cataract surgery can be denied so long as the prisoner has sufficient vision in their dominant eye.

* WBEZ this week

In an email to Wexford, the private company that runs Illinois’ prison healthcare, Illinois Department of Corrections Medical Director Steve Meeks said Wexford’s written eye surgery policy “has been interpreted as implying” that prisoners can’t get surgery on both eyes.

But Meeks wrote that “this is not the position of the office of health services,” and if a doctor recommends surgery in both eyes “those recommendations are to be followed.” He instructed Wexford to communicate that information to its medical providers.

* ACLU of Illinois yesterday…

Transgender prisoners in Illinois prisons will have access to more humane, professional health care after U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel ordered the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to overhaul its practices and policies for providing treatment to prisoners with gender dysphoria. Judge Rosenstengel granted a preliminary injunction in the class-action lawsuit Monroe v. Jeffreys on behalf of five women who are transgender and detained in Illinois prisons, aimed at reforming the larger systemic crisis regarding how IDOC treats the hundred or more transgender prisoners in its facilities throughout the state.

Critically, the order requires IDOC to immediately cease the policy and practice of allowing its “Transgender Committee” (no members of which have any experience or expertise in treating gender dysphoria) to “make the medical decisions regarding gender dysphoria.” The order also requires IDOC to stop any delay in providing hormone therapy and to provide materials that facilitate prisoners’ social transition, including gender-appropriate clothing and personal grooming products.

The decision also ends the practice “mechanically” assigning housing based on “genitalia” and/or physical size and appearance.

“This is a sweeping victory for our clients, who have been subject to unspeakable harm by a Department of Corrections that has truly been deliberately indifferent to our clients’ suffering. We look forward to ensuring that IDOC complies with the order without any delay so that all prisoners who have gender dysphoria in Illinois will receive humane and professional treatment,” said Ghirlandi Guidetti, staff attorney of the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois.

Judge Rosenstengel’s order also calls for:

    * Allowing transgender prisoners access to health care providers who meet the competency requirements stated in the WPATH Standards of Care to treat gender dysphoria;
    * Allow inmates to obtain evaluations for gender dysphoria upon request or as a result of clinical indications;
    * A new IDOC policy to allow inmates medically necessary social transition, including individualized placement determinations, avoidance of cross-gender strip searches, gender affirming clothing and grooming items; and,
    * Training for all IDOC correctional staff on transgender issues, including the harms caused by mis-gendering and harassment.

Janiah Monroe, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, waited approximately three years after requesting treatment before her hormone therapy was initiated. Her treatment only began after several attempts to self-castrate. All of the plaintiffs experienced significant delays in receiving medically necessary treatment, while some treatments are being denied entirely. You can read their declarations in detail here.

“The Illinois Department of Corrections now has a clear path forward to provide a better baseline of medical care for individuals who are transgender and have gender dysphoria. We urge the IDOC Director and the entire department to move quickly to implement these court-ordered reforms so that its prisoners can receive the constitutionally adequate medical care that treatments they need to survive,” said Guidetti.

In addition to Mr. Guidetti, John Knight, Carolyn Wald, and Camille Bennett of the ACLU of Illinois, the plaintiffs are represented by Catherine L. Fitzpatrick, Jordan M. Heinz, Erica B. Zolner, Megan M. New, Sydney L. Schneider, Austin B. Stephenson, and Sam G. Rose of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Brent P. Ray of King & Spaulding LLP, and Sarah Jane Hunt of Kennedy Hunt, P.C..

       

12 Comments
  1. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 10:18 am:

    Basic humanity. These are people. They may have committed illegal acts but most will come out. They are entitled to be safe and treated humanely. I guess the adult justice system just bookends the juvenile justice and guardianship systems.
    Changing the way people placed in my he care and custody of the state needs to be a priority of the Governor and all state politicians. No one should tolerate this abuse


  2. - Romeo - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    Atrocious. Prisoners are people, too. If a medical professional deems that they need eye surgery, then they should get it.


  3. - Ebenezer - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 10:43 am:

    This work being done in North Dakota is worth your time:
    https://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-north-dakota-prison-criminal-justice-reform.html

    Storing people in a brutal warehouse ensures that they become more violent and are less capable of holding down a job when they get out.


  4. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 10:53 am:

    The ‘one good eye’ policy reminds me of Medicaid’s policy regarding hearing aids. They’ll pay for only one even when a person needs them for both ears. Ridiculous.


  5. - AlfondoGonz - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 11:03 am:

    I sat in on a mediation where a federal inmate brought a 1983 suit alleging that his untreated ocular herpes resulted in the loss of his eye. He alleged 2 doctors failed to give him proper care; one settled for $5k and the other fought it. The parties paid an expert $5k to determine which doctors’ negligent care was responsible for the inmate’s loss. The expert determined the doctor who already settled was wholly responsible. The inmate wanted the $2500 he contributed towards the expert’s services refunded. The Feds refused and spent, easily, $10k fighting to save $2500.


  6. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    Prisoners have constitutional rights…including the right to medical care.

    Talking about prison conditions is a positive.

    Changing conditions is the proof…that the talk had some walk…otherwise,they are empty barks…with no bite.


  7. - Merica - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 12:20 pm:

    this is despicable. Close lincoln, close western, close shawnee, close dixon, close jacksonville, close vienna and vandalia, fire Wexford.

    Build two new, larger more efficient facilities in the collar counties. Hire a competent state employee medical workforce to care for inmates.

    and for pete’s sake, release anyone still being detained for cocaine! murdering people by ignoring cancer is worse


  8. - Taylorville Inmate - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    I was an inmate at Taylorville during parts of the times referenced in that article. We lived in fear of getting sick because those types of instances described in the article were commonplace. In my opinion, the prison’s administration was a culpable in this regard as Wexford. Inmates would not get treated for serious conditions unless their families threatened to use whatever political connections they had or threatened to call the media. Even after, there would be harassment by the prison. Keep in mind that when you live in an environment where your keepers control your day-to-day existence and your access to be able to tell people on the outside about it, there is often nothing you can do. Most of us took responsibility for what we did, admitted that we had committed crimes and were wrong and accepted that prison is supposed to be punitive and not at all comfortable. But none of us were sentenced to risking our health and lives for what we did. Unfortunately, inmates who have recently been released tell me that this kind of behavior continues.


  9. - Captain Obvious - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 2:12 pm:

    Dotnonymous - not sure there is a constitutional right to medical care, unless you are arguing that withholding it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. But I am fairly certain medical care has not been held by court to be a constitutional right.


  10. - Taylorville Inmate - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    Captain Obvious: See, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), holding that deliberate indifference by prison personnel to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury constitutes cruel and unusual punishment contravening the Eighth Amendment.


  11. - DougChicago - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    I am sure you can find a case where I in a fit of emotion would say that the SOB didn’t deserve any medical care because of the deed he did that landed him in prison.

    But in general it seems we must summon our better angels and realize that these are human beings. They are probably not entitled to the Mayo Clinic but a society that can tolerate a man being taken over by cancer in plain sight—and not taken for care— isn’t worth much.


  12. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Dec 20, 19 @ 2:44 pm:

    The Constitutional rights of inmates include the following:

    The right to humane facilities and conditions.
    The right to be free from sexual crimes.
    The right to be free from racial segregation.
    The right to express condition complaints.
    The right to assert their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    The right to medical care and attention as needed.
    The right to appropriate mental health care.
    The right to a hearing if they are to be moved to a mental health facility.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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