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Report Shows Massive Lack Of Medical Treatment For Illinois Prisoners

By aaroncynic in News on May 22, 2015 5:00PM

Unqualified staff and inadequate care have contributed to some 60 percent of non-violent deaths in Illinois prisons, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Cases reviewed by medical experts and lawyers representing the Illinois Department of Correction (IDOC) show a broad range of problems with treatment of inmates in the state’s prison system, including unsanitary conditions, a lack of leadership and lapses in care that even lead to deaths.

Dixon Correctional Center (DCC), which houses male inmates with special needs, including those with developmental disabilities and mobility impairments, and geriatric patients, was missing a Health Care Unit Administrator and a Director of Nursing, according to the report. Its Medical Director was a “traveling” director from a private company contracted by the IDOC. The company, called Wexford, has faced its own criticism for providing inadequate health care.

The report also charges that records were not adequately maintained, containing “excessive amounts of outdated information,” and Medical Administration Records, necessary to monitor patients medication compliance, were often missing. Approximately 70 percent of the 2,349 inmates at DCC are on medication.

A patient at Menard Correctional Center (MCC), a downstate maximum-security facility which houses some 3,750 inmates, had his insulin discontinued by a doctor untrained in primary care after his blood sugar levels were found to be normal while on insulin. The report states a “failure to identify and appropriately manage a common primary care condition (diabetic foot ulcer) lead to actual harm of the patient (amputation).”

At Illinois River Correctional Center (IRCC), an inmate coughing up blood upon arrival was given a container for it by a nurse and told to call if the amount increased. For months, the 55 year-old man had a family history of lung cancer and smoked more than 40 packs a year, exhibited classic and worsening signs of lung cancer. He died just nine days after being properly diagnosed and given treatment.

The death at IRCC, located just outside of Peoria, was not an isolated incident. Of the 61 non-violent deaths within IDOC reviewed between January 1, 2013 and June 1, 2014, 38 showed one or more significant lapses in care contributing to the cause of death.

“This report demonstrates that Illinois is inflicting needless pain and suffering by failing to provide basic medical care for its prisoners, ” said Benjamin Wolf, Associate Legal Director for the ACLU of Illinois. The ACLU joined the suit after it was filed by Seyfarth Shaw, LLP and the Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC).

“The lack of expertise and personnel is especially troubling,” said Jason Stiehl, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw’s Chicago office.

Representatives from the Department of Corrections criticized the report, saying it “uses a broad brush to paint an incomplete picture.”

“While the IDOC agrees with certain recommendations contained in the report and has already taken steps to improve its delivery of services, we believe many of the conclusions in the report are flawed and disagree with a number of the criticisms presented,” officials said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.

Though IDOC reps say the conclusions are flawed, they also did their best to block the release of the report to the public. A court ordered that the report would remain confidential as long as settlement talks were ongoing; however “the Department of Corrections announced on March 30 they didn’t think that there were significant problems in the system that needed to be fixed. The Department therefore terminated all further settlement discussions,” said Alan Mills, Executive Director of the UPLC.

A motion filed by IDOC in April shows it asked for at least two additional weeks to further redact information, citing “unspecified security reasons.” Mills said he wasn’t sure what those reasons could’ve been, as all of the information identifying inmates had already been redacted.

“I don’t see what could possibly be a security concern other than that the public will find out what medical care is being given, or not given, for the millions of dollars the state is putting out for prisoners,” Mills told Chicagoist.

Even though there were 17 prisons not reviewed in the report, the latest development in Lippert, et. al, v. Godinez, a class action lawsuit first brought forth by the UPLC on behalf of six prisoners in 2012, Mills said the ones chosen were done so because they were the facilities where problems would be. Four are intake centers and four are maximum security prisons, where inmates can often have the toughest time getting adequate medical care.

“We think the experts got it exactly right,” said Mills. “The only thing that shocked me about this report is reading it all in one place; Uptown People’s Law Center gets over a hundred letters a week from prisoners in Illinois, and in them we read many medical horror stories.”