America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Ely State Prison makes it to the Dishonorable Mentions (top 17)

America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Dishonorable Mentions
7 runners-up, from a “gladiator school” to America’s largest death row.

By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
Wed May. 15, 2013, in:  Mother Jones Magazine

#1: ADX (federal supermax)
#2: Allan B. Polunsky Unit (Texas)
#3: Tent City Jail (Phoenix)
#4: Orleans Parish (Louisiana)
#5: LA County Jail (Los Angeles)
#6: Pelican Bay (California)
#7: Julia Tutwiler (Alabama)
#8: Reeves Country Detention Complex (Texas)
#9: Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Mississippi)
#10: Rikers Island (New York City)

Read the complete introduction to our 10 Worst Prisons project.
Last of 11 parts.

Serving time in prison is not supposed to be pleasant. Nor, however, is it supposed to include being raped by fellow prisoners or staff, beaten by guards for the slightest provocation, driven mad by long-term solitary confinement, or killed off by medical neglect. These are the fates of thousands of prisoners every year—men, women, and children housed in lockups that give Gitmo and Abu Ghraib a run for their money.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, and while not all of the facilities described in this series have all of the problems we explore, some stand out as particularly bad actors. These dishonorable mentions make up the final installment of our 11-part series, a subjective ranking based on three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates concerning the penal facilities with the grimmest claims to infamy.

Attica Correctional Facility (Attica, New York): More than four decades after its famous uprising, New York’s worst state prison still lives up to its brutal history. According to the Correctional Association of New York, which has a legislative mandate to track prison conditions, Attica is plagued by staff-on-prisoner violence, intimidation, and sexual abuse.

Communications Management Units (Marion, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana): These two federal prisons-within-prisons, whose populations are more than two-thirds Muslim, were opened secretly by the Bureau of Prisons during the Bush administration, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is challenging the facilities in a federal lawsuit. “The Bureau claims that CMUs are designed to hold dangerous terrorists and other high-risk inmates, requiring heightened monitoring of their external and internal communications,” notes a lawsuit fact sheet. “Many prisoners, however, are sent to these isolation units for their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or in retaliation for challenging poor treatment or other rights violations in the federal prison system.” (Also see: Pelican Bay.)

Ely State Prison (Ely, Nevada): A “shocking and callous disregard for human life” is how an auditor described medical care at Ely, which houses the state’s death row along with other maximum security prisoners (PDF). The audit, which found that one prisoner was allowed to rot to death from gangrene, formed the basis of a 2008 class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU’s National Prison Project. The suit was settled in 2010, but by 2012 the prison still was not in full compliance.

Idaho Correctional Center (Kuna, Idaho): Run by Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest private prison company, ICC has been dubbed a “gladiator school” for its epidemic of gang violence. According to a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the ACLU of Idaho (PDF), the violence is not only condoned but actively promoted by the staff. The suit was settled, but last November, the ACLU said CCA appeared to be violating the agreement, which called for increased staffing and training, reporting of assaults to the local sheriff’s office, and disciplinary measures for staffers who didn’t take steps to stop or prevent assaults.

San Quentin State Prison (Marin County, California): This decrepit prison, which sits on a $2 billion piece of bayside real estate, is home to America’s largest death row. As of late-April, there were 711 men and 20 women condemned to die at San Quentin—you can find the latest stats here (PDF); the figure is constantly changing, despite a state moratorium on executions, because prisoners frequently die of illness or old age. Some even commit suicide rather than remain in solitary limbo.

Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola, Louisiana): At America’s largest prison, those who embrace warden Burl Cain’s pet program of “moral rehabilitation” through Christianity are afforded privileges while sinners languish in institutional hell. A former slave plantation, the prison lends its name to the so-called Angola 3, two of whom have been held in solitary for 40 years, largely for their perceived political beliefs. (In March, Louisiana’s attorney general declared, bafflingly, that the men had “never been in solitary confinement.”)

The federal pen at Lewisburg.
United States Penitentiary (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania): In this overcrowded supermax, the target of multiple lawsuits, prisoners are locked down for 23 to 24 hours a day in the company of a cellmate. One lawsuit alleges that prison officials deliberately pair people with their enemies, and that this practice has led to at least two deaths. The suit also claims that prisoners have been strapped to their bunks with four-point restraints if they resist their cell assignments.

Research for this project was supported by a grant from the Investigative Fund and The Nation Institute, as well as a Soros Justice Media Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations. Additional reporting by Beth Broyles, Valeria Monfrini, Katie Rose Quandt, and Sal Rodriguez.
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Prisoner at Ely Denied Surgery – Now Barely Able to Walk

ACLU NV:

Submitted by Rahul Sharma on Thu, 03/10/2011

On March 5th, the ACLU of Nevada submitted a friend -of-the-court brief in support of John Snow, an elderly man at Ely State Prison who has been repeatedly denied hip surgery, and who, as a result, is now barely able to walk and has severely damaged kidneys.

In September of 2006, Mr. Snow saw an orthopedist retained by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), who diagnosed him with severe degenerative arthritis of the hips. Four months later, at a follow-up appointment, the orthopedist wrote that Mr. Snow could “barely walk” and that “[t]here is no option here other than surgery for relief.” NDOC denied surgery at least three times, despite urgent recommendations and a finding that the medications Mr. Snow needs to manage his hip pain are toxic to his kidneys. As of this date, Mr. Snow still has not had surgery.

In January of 2008, Mr. Snow filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that NDOC officials had been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In preparations for trial, a former nurse at the prison testified that one doctor said of Mr. Snow, “This guy’s an asshole. I’m not going to treat him.” Evidence also showed that in response to one of Mr. Snow’s medical requests, a physician’s assistant wrote that he was “gonna let [Mr. Snow] suffer.” (The physician’s assistant now asserts that his response to Mr. Snow was meant to be “tongue-in-cheek.”)

The ACLU of Nevada argues in its brief that Mr. Snow’s case should be allowed to go to trial, as there is ample evidence for a jury to find that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.
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Unfortunately, Mr. Snow’s circumstance is only a symptom of the prison crisis recently discussed in our report, Not Fit for Human Consumption or Habitation: Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis. Medical care at Ely State Prison, the same prison in Mr. Snow’s case, was also the subject of a 2008 class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada and the ACLU’s National Prison Project. The lawsuit charged that a pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at the facility created a substantial risk of serious harm for every prisoner incarcerated there.

The ACLU of Nevada hopes Mr. Snow can find redress in the courts for the inhumane treatment he has suffered. It also hopes that NDOC and the Nevada Legislature will work to keep future cases like this from happening.

ACLU Agrees To Settle Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Medical Care At Ely State Prison


ACLUNV

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Nevada late yesterday filed in federal court a proposed agreement between a class of over 1,000 prisoners at Ely State Prison and top state prison and governmental officials that would settle a 2008 lawsuit charging that a pervasive pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at the prison created a substantial risk of serious medical harm for every prisoner in the facility.

The agreement, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, would result in an independent medical expert being appointed to monitor the prison’s health care system and submit regular reports evaluating prison officials’ compliance with specified medical requirements in the agreement. As part of the agreement, prison officials have agreed to build a better system of ensuring that necessary medications are provided to prisoners in a timely manner, develop health care treatment plans for any prisoners suffering from a chronic illness requiring ongoing medical care and provide prisoners with access to qualified medical staff seven days a week for any routine or emergency medical ailments.

“Nevada officials deserve credit for being willing to address medical care at Ely proactively,” said Amy Fettig, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Rather than spend years and years in costly litigation, both parties decided to sit down to collaborate on a solution. The result is vastly improved medical conditions for the prisoners at Ely.”

Additionally, prison officials have agreed to institute daily rounds by a nurse to pick up any medical request forms – ensuring that all prisoners have a confidential means of requesting medical care – and provide access to a registered nurse or higher level practitioner within 48 hours of a prisoner requesting medical attention.
“The reforms that prison officials have agreed to will go a long way toward fixing a very broken system,” said Lee Rowland, staff attorney with the ACLU of Nevada. “We brought this lawsuit in response to widespread evidence of unconstitutional medical conditions for Ely prisoners, and we are pleased that working collaboratively with the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Corrections has led to the resolution of some of the most pressing issues at Ely.”

The lawsuit contains three named plaintiffs, including 38-year-old David Riker, who alleged at the time the lawsuit was filed that despite his rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, he had never received prescribed medications and X-rays ordered by an outside physician and was told by Ely medical staff that treating chronic pain is against the policy of the prison.

Lawyers on the case include Fettig, Rowland, Maggie McLetchie of the ACLU of Nevada and Steve Hanlon of Holland & Knight, LLC.

Information about the ACLU’s efforts to improve medical conditions at the Ely State Prison, including a copy of today’s settlement agreement, is available online at: www.aclu.org/ely


The settlement can be opened here (PDF).

LA Times: Court settlement would upgrade Nevada prison’s medical care

The ACLU negotiates a deal that includes better staffing and monitoring of treatment that one doctor called ‘shocking and callous.’

By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times
July 16, 2010
Reporting from Las Vegas —

A Nevada prison’s medical care — once described as displaying a “shocking and callous disregard for human life” — would be upgraded and monitored under a proposed court settlement filed Thursday.

An independent monitor would ensure that the remote maximum-security prison, which houses Nevada’s death row inmates, was dispensing medication and treatment in a timely manner, creating treatment plans for chronically ill inmates and had qualified medical staff available at all times, according to the proposal.

The monitor would inspect the 1,100-inmate Ely State Prison at least four times over two years. Should medical care fall short, the duration of his oversight could be extended, the proposal said.

The agreement, which still requires the approval of federal Judge Larry R. Hicks, was crafted by the ACLU, which represented Ely inmates, and state officials.

The ACLU cited a 2007 report by an Idaho doctor who, after reviewing the medical records of 35 inmates, said the Ely prison’s healthcare system amounted to “the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered.”

At the time, the men’s prison had no staff doctor; the previous one had been a gynecologist. A nurse was fired after complaining about shoddy treatment, which she said led to one inmate dying of gangrene.

Under the proposed agreement, cash-strapped Nevada would also pay $325,000 in attorney fees and any costs of improving the prison’s healthcare.

Lee Rowland of the ACLU said the plan resulted from “extensive cooperation” with the state. Partly based on National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards, it could help patch what she described as a “very broken system.” State officials declined to comment.

… read more:
The Los Angeles Times

Settlement in the works on Nevada prison suit

So, what about helping prisoners get medical care? We hope this is not another cover up or lost chance to get at least medical reforms to Nevada prisons.

Associated Press, via Review Journal

April 21, 2010

The state of Nevada and American Civil Liberties Union are trying to finalize an agreement to settle a class action lawsuit over medical care for inmates at the maximum security prison in Ely.

An agenda released Wednesday shows the state Board of Examiners will be asked next week to approve $325,000 in fees for the ACLU in the 2008 case thas was certified as a class action by a federal judge last year.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Reno asked for a court-ordered monitor to oversee medical care for about 1,000 inmates at the prison.

A lawyer for the attorney general’s office says an independent monitor is not part of the propose settlement, other details won’t be released until fees are approved.

Another link to this.

If You Are a Prisoner at Ely State Prison, a Class Action Lawsuit May Affect Your Rights

This was posted on Make the Walls Transparent, June 9, 2009 and received by them as an email from the ACLU.

NOTE TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF INMATES AT ELY STATE PRISON: If you have a loved on inside Ely State Prison, please print this article and send it in to them. This notice should be placed in in the law library, infirmary, and each housing area of Ely State Prison, Ely, Nevada, for the duration of this action. Ely State Prison is a locked down prison where inmates are not allowed go to the law library, or permitted to walk around on the housing units freely. When they are allowed out of their cells it’s only to go to the yard or shower; they are handcuffed and escorted and it is not likely guards are going to allow them to stop and read the postings. If they are in the infirmary, it may not be posted where they can see it. With this in mind, it is very important that every inmate housed inside Ely State Prison knows about this class action lawsuit. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Amy Fettig, National Prison Project of the ACLU, 915 15th Street, NW — 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20005.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEVADA

Riker v. Gibbons, Civil Action No. 3:08-CV-00115-LRH-RAM.
If you are a prisoner at Ely State Prison, a class action
lawsuit may affect your rights.
The Federal Court authorized this notice.

* Prisoners have sued prison officials and other state officials in federal court, alleging inadequate medical care at Ely State Prison (ESP) in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

* The Federal Court has allowed the lawsuit to proceed as a class action on behalf of “All prisoners who are now, or in the future will be, in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections at Ely State Prison in Ely, Nevada.” If you are a prisoner at Ely State Prison, you are a member of this class.

* The Federal Court has not decided whether or not prison officials and other state officials (“the Defendants”) have done anything to violate the rights of the prisoners (“the Plaintiffs”) to adequate medical care. The Plaintiffs’ lawyers must prove their claims against the Defendants at a trial. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada is overseeing this class action.

* The lawsuit is known as Riker v. Gibbons, Civil Action No. 3:08-CV-00115-LRH-RAM.

1. What is this lawsuit about?

This lawsuit claims that the Defendants are violating the constitutional rights of prisoners at
ESP by failing to provide prisoners with access to care for their serious medical needs.

2. What are the Plaintiffs asking for?

The Plaintiffs in this case have asked only for injunctive relief, not for money damages.
Injunctive relief means that if Plaintiffs win the lawsuit, the Court will order the Defendants
to provide access to care for prisoners’ serious medical needs. This class action does not
seek money damages.

3. Am I part of this Class?

All prisoners who are currently incarcerated at ESP are members of the class and any
prisoner who is transferred to ESP in the future will also be part of the class. You are a
member of the class only while you are incarcerated at Ely. If you are transferred out of ESP
or released from ESP, you will no longer be a member of the class.

4. Do I have to participate in this lawsuit?

No. Unless you are a named plaintiff, you are not required to participate in this lawsuit in
any way. Note that if you do not participate in the lawsuit, but you are still a prisoner at ESP,
any changes in medical care ordered by the Court will still apply to you.

5. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

The Court has appointed the National Prison Project of the ACLU, the ACLU of Nevada, and
the law firm of Holland & Knight LLP to represent all class members in this case. These
lawyers are called “Class Counsel.” You will not owe class counsel any money for their
services in this case.

If you want to communicate with Class Counsel about this case, you may write to them at the
following address:
Amy Fettig
National Prison Project of the ACLU
915 15th Street, NW — 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20005

6. Should I get my own lawyer?

You do not need to hire your own lawyer to be part of this class action lawsuit for injunctive
relief because Class Counsel is working on your behalf. If you want your own lawyer, you
can have a lawyer enter an appearance in this case on your behalf. You will likely have to
pay that lawyer, however.

Class Counsel cannot represent you in any damages case. If you want to sue Defendants for damages, you cannot do so in this Class Action lawsuit. If you wish to bring a damages case you will need to first follow the rules of the Nevada Department of Corrections for
exhausting administrative remedies.

This Notice will be posted in the law library, infirmary, and each housing
area for the duration of this action, by order of the
United States District Court.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ORDER FROM THE COURT ON THE POSTING OF THE INFORMATION

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEVADA

3:08-CV-00115-LRH-RAM

DAVID RIKER et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

JAMES GIBBONS et al., Defendants

STIPULATED CLASS NOTICE AND ORDER

Pursuant to the Court’s Order, dated March 31, 2009 [Dkt. #40], the parties submit the attached stipulated class notice to be posted in the law library, infirmary, and each housing area of Ely State Prison, Ely, Nevada, for the duration of this action. See Attachment A.

Dated: April 30, 2009

Respectfully Submitted,
ORDER

IT IS SO ORDERED:

DATED this 5th day of May, 2009

___________________________________
HON. LARRY R. HICKS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Emailed to MTWT by Amy Fettig of the National Prison Project of the ACLU in Washington, DC.

Article printed from Make The Walls Transparent: http://makethewallstransparent.org

URL to article: http://makethewallstransparent.org/2009/06/if-you-are-a-prisoner-at-ely-state-prison-a-class-action-lawsuit-may-affect-your-rights/