Summer Heat Kills Inmates in Prisons, and That Needs to Change

From: University of Texas – Austin

June 26, 2014

By Ariel Dulitzky, Director of the Human Rights Clinic; Alex Goeman & Samantha Chen, Students of the Human Rights Clinic

Searing heat and suffocating humidity levels are upon us here in the Southern states. In Texas, residents know that summers are brutal, but while we may be proud of our ability to withstand such extreme conditions, that cold blast of air conditioning when we walk indoors is a welcome respite from the heat outside. In fact, prolonged exposure to temperatures as low as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, when combined with high humidity levels, can put even the healthiest individuals in extreme danger. Despite knowing of these dangers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has declined to provide air conditioners in most inmate housing areas, or even to set maximum temperature standards in these areas. This needs to change.

Every summer, the TDCJ subjects its prisoners to deadly temperature and humidity levels, and violates prisoners’ human and constitutional rights and their rights to health, life and dignity. Some note that many law abiding Texans do not have air conditioning in their homes. However, these individuals have the freedom and capability to escape deadly summer heat by entering air-conditioned buildings such as libraries or movie theaters. They can take showers and drink water as many times as they want. TDCJ inmates, on the other hand, spend much of their time locked in enclosed concrete and metal structures, where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees during the summer months.

As we noted in our report “Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons,” at least 14 heat-related deaths have been documented at TDCJ facilities since 2007. Many of these inmates had pre-existing health conditions or were taking medications that rendered them heat-sensitive, yet the TDCJ did not properly provide cooled living areas. While the TDCJ uses ventilation and fans indoors, these measures do not protect against heat illnesses in high temperatures and humidity. To the contrary, fans can accelerate heat-related illnesses in such conditions.

Read more at: http://www.utexas.edu/know/2014/06/26/summer-heat-kills-inmates-in-prisons-and-that-needs-to-change/

Medical care tops inmate grievances

This comes from: Wyoming Tribule-Eagle:
May 27 2013

Complaints about health care in state prisons and jails increased, according to a recently released report.

By Kelsey Bray
kbray@wyomingnews.com

CHEYENNE — Poor medical and mental health care again topped the list of complaints from Wyoming prisoners, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report.

“We have always received medical and mental health care complaints from prisons and jails,” Wyoming ACLU attorney Jennifer Horvath said. “Last year, we saw a significant rise in those complaints, and the nature of the complaints was more serious.”

In the second annual report, titled “Incarceration in Wyoming,” 30 percent of complaints from prisons and 27.2 percent of complaints from jails in 2012 were about medical care. In 2011, the numbers were 24.8 percent from prisons and 21 percent from jails.

Prisoner complaints

The ACLU gets complaints from prisoners and others, including inmates’ family members.

According to the report, the total number of complaints doesn’t correspond to the number of letters the organization gets. Sometimes one prisoner complains about more than one issue, and sometimes multiple letters from one prisoner are received about one issue, which only counts as one complaint.

These complaints include civil liberty concerns such as religious freedom and expression, which made up 14.7 percent of prison complaints and 15.5 percent of jail complaints in 2012.

“We have people who are not able to have diets consistent with their faith, like kosher diets,” Horvath said. “Some (complaints) are about people’s access to religious materials.”

Inmates also complained about excessive force by guards and solitary confinement, where they are alone in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day.

Medical complaints

Most medical complaints centered on denial or delays of adequate medical or mental health care.

Read the rest here: http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2013/05/26/news/20local_05-26-13.txt

SPLC reaches agreement to address prisoner abuse, neglect at Orleans Parish Prison

From: Southern Poverty Law Center
Dec. 11th 2012

The SPLC has reached an agreement with officials in Orleans Parish, La., to address the brutal and inhumane conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison, where prisoners have endured rampant violence, sexual assaults and neglect.

The federal consent decree outlines steps that Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will take to ensure prisoner safety and adequate staffing of the facility. If approved by the court, an independent monitor will oversee the agreement to ensure compliance. The agreement, the result of an SPLC lawsuit filed in April, also would apply to any new facility that is built to replace the jail.

“We are hopeful the judge will agree that this settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC’s New Orleans office and lead attorney on the case. “We also applaud Sheriff Gusman and his office for taking the important first step of acknowledging the problems within the jail. While implementation will be difficult, we are committed to improving conditions, and will work with him to do so. We also need the city to work with us and provide the funding to truly fix this jail.”

SPLC clients Byron Morgan and Nicholas Miorana, both prisoners in the Orleans Parish Prison, said they were pleased an agreement has been reached. “I am excited the sheriff has agreed to take a hard look, and fix this jail,” Morgan said. “I hope Mayor Mitch Landrieu will help make the changes as well.”

Miorana added, “Today, I understand what right and wrong stand for. With help from the Justice Department and SPLC, our cries will finally be heard.”
The decree includes the following provisions:

  • Review and monitoring of prison operations by a professional corrections administrator.
  • Comprehensive policies governing the use of force and restraints on prisoners.
  • Documenting and tracking complaints of prison staff using excessive force.
  • A staffing plan that provides enough officers to ensure prisoner safety.
  • A ban on placing teenagers in units where they may have contact with an adult prisoner.
  • Guidelines for providing medical and mental health care for prisoners.

The SPLC lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, described a facility where widespread violence and contraband – including knives – are the norm. It also noted that the jail is understaffed and that deputies are not only poorly trained and supervised, but are often complicit in the abuses suffered by the prisoners.

The U.S. Department of Justice intervened in the case in September, joining the effort to address the conditions. Three years ago, a comprehensive investigation by the department documented many of the same violations contained in the SPLC lawsuit.

Once the agreement is approved by the court, it will go into effect immediately. However, certain provisions cannot be implemented until the city and the sheriff’s office resolve how to provide adequate funding for the jail. If the city and the sheriff cannot resolve the funding dispute, the funding issue will go to trial on April 4, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.

“April 4 is a long time for the men, women and children in Orleans Parish Prison to wait,” said Schwartzmann. “With Sheriff Gusman committed to reform, we urge Mayor Landrieu to provide immediate emergency funding to support the necessary changes. Every day we wait, the lives of thousands of New Orleanians remain at risk.”

Nevada gets F in treatment of pregnant inmates

SANDRA CHEREB • Associated Press Writer • October 21, 2010

Reno Gazette Journal

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – The state received a failing grade for its treatment of inmate mothers and pregnant women in a new report issued Thursday, but a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections took exception to the findings, and the report itself suggested at least some of the criticism was based not on state practices but the lack of a written policy.

The 50-state survey released by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights analyzed state and federal prison policies on three criteria: prenatal care, use of shackles, and alternatives to incarceration for pregnant women and mothers with young children. Nevada received an overall grade of F and was among 21 states to receive a grade of D or lower.

Only one state, Pennsylvania, received an A.

Nevada received a failing grade for prenatal care and lack of family-based treatment programs for nonviolent inmates who are mothers, and a D for use of restraints on pregnant women.

“Too many women in prison fail to receive adequate prenatal care, are shackled during childbirth and don’t have the option of family based drug treatment programs that would allow them to be with their children,” Jill C. Morrison, senior counsel with the National Women’s Law Center and co-author of the study, said in a written statement.

“It’s shameful that so many states fail to have laws and policies to protect this vulnerable population of unseen and largely forgotten women,” she said.

Suzanne Pardee, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections, said prenatal care is provided as soon as an inmate’s pregnancy becomes known.

Nevada currently has 916 female inmates. There were 24 pregnant inmates in 2009, and 25 so far this year, she said.

Read more here.

Please Help Pardon the Scott Sisters.

This in from Free The Scott Sisters Wednesday. Thursday was the 16 year anniversary of their incarceration. Please write letters on their behalf ASAP – they do make a difference.

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Mrs. Rasco would like to inform everyone that Jamie was taken to the doctor yesterday and given medication thanks to all phone calls and e-mails. The doctor seemed to think that she has a sinus infection. The doctor was not able to check her ears as all machines for making ear examinations are broken.

THANK YOU ALL!

Please continue to send e-mails and faxes to the board of Pardon’s and Parole and express your support for their release. You may include points such as their accomplishments in prison.
Jamie and Gladys both have completed training courses. Gladys is a great seamstress and completed this program in prison. Jamie has completed several courses as well. Both Jamie and Gladys have assisted numerous inmates in learning to read.

Your letters will mean a lot to the board in making their decision for a pardon with an EXPUNGED record.

Fax: (601) 576-3528 — Ms. Warnock –swarnock@mdoc.state.ms.us

Board Members – Fax: (601) 576-3528
Bobbie Thomas – Board Member
Clarence Brown – Board Member
Betty Lou Jones – Board Member
Danny Guice – Board Member

State of Mississippi Parole Board
660 North Street
Suite 100A
Jackson, MS 39202

In Solidarity,

Nancy Lockhart, M.J.

911 Mississippi State Prisons

I found this article fascinating, albeit troubling as well. You really can’t take the American Correctional Association seriously as an accrediting agency now, seeing him at the helm after getting a great score. They don’t calculate prisoner mortality rates into their evaluations and equations, I guess. How can they have any accreditation at all? Don’t any of those ACA people have a clue about what was happening in Parchman? It ‘s as bad as what’s been going on in the prison Jamie and Gladys Scott have been buried in. Who do they think is responsible for all this if not him? Is the MDOC now the national gold standard for the ACA? That’s pathetic.

I wonder how many of those ACA people even care that this man was fired early in his career, back when he was a corrections officer, for violating the civil rights of an escapee as part of a group of MDOC staff who beat the guy senseless after apprehending him. That’s all according to court records easily enough located on the internet.

They got their jobs back after a fight (no big surprise) – and as we all know he went on to preside over one of the most brutal, negligent departments of corrections in the country. Under his watch, mortality rates among prisoners have skyrocketed to where Mississippi’s is the second highest in the nation. That has also occurred since Wexford took over the health care. I suspect it has something to do with whether or not they’re properly treating – or even bothering to prevent or screen for – illnesses like Hep C, Diabetes, and heart disease and their secondary complications.

I hope a team of investigative journalists or some top notch college students out there in Mississippi pick up on this and run with it – look at all those deaths and try to find out what caused them. Were they from chronic or acute illnesses? Were people getting adequate care or were their pleas for medical attention going unanswered? What’s the mortality rate in the prisons among dialysis patients? Is there a high incidence of Hep C infection among them (much non-IV drug transmission occurs through poorly maintained medical equipment, like dialysis machines. Do you think Wexford would even tell a patient if they ever got infected through dialysis? Do you think the MDOC would?)

What’s the prevalence of diabetes and complicating factors, like kidney disease, among Mississippi prisoners? How about among African American prisoners? I bet you’ll find that a lot of people are dying from illnesses like diabetes related to “lifestyle” (including things the prisons have total control over, like diet) or from secondary complications of disease processes that could have been manged – as in Jamie Scott’s case. I bet it’s pretty high among minority women in prison in particular. I think it’s pretty fair to say that prison life had a lot to do with her developing diabetes and severe kidney disease this early in life.

I have good reason for asking those questions. I was going to embed links that led to some of the answers, but I’ve already covered a lot of that ground – someone else needs to move this from blog to paper. Someone from Mississippi. There’s a whole prison full of women wiling and ready to talk – probably the men are, too. All they need is someone willing to listen and then do something with it.

In the meantime, think on this, America. The man who runs the Mississippi Department of Corrections just became the president of the American Correctional Association, which is supposed to be accrediting all of our jails and prisons. Think any prisoners in Mississippi are going to see justice now? Think any prisoners in ANY state will get what they need in terms of medical care from the directors who now look to him for leadership?

What a reflection of cowardice and self-interest on the part of the membership of the American Correctional Association (dominated and kind of sponsored by the private prison industry, by the way) to put that guy out as their president. Why would they choose him? Certainly not because of his stellar ethical foundation. But I guess every single one of them is knowingly letting people die, too, trying to keep them from making too much noise in the process. That’s what happens here in Arizona. I haven’t heard one prisoner rights activist from any state in the country say that their DoC director is a decent human being who takes full responsibility for the treatment of prisoners in his (her) custody.

I sure hope the Scott Sisters keep making noise, bringing what’s happening there to the world’s attention. We’ll try to keep amplifying your voices – and those of any other prisoners and family members who write to us – as much as possible. We’ve haven’t been posting a lot, but believe me, we’re still out here for you. We haven’t been fooled a bit…

This is from the end of May . The article was in the MS Digital Daily, which I believe is the state of Mississippi’s PR “news” line, not to be confused with a real journalistic venture. If I’m wrong about this being anything other than a press release for the MDOC – or if I’ve erred about facts in my remarks above – then please correct me by leaving a comment at the end of this article, and we’ll look into it. We can execute Troy Davis even if he’s factually innocent, but god forbid we lambaste an abusive man in power.

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Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps Elected American Correctional Association President
posted by Baxter Cannada | 5/25/2010
By KENT CROCKER

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps has been elected as president of the prestigious American Correctional Association. Commissioner Epps will be the 102nd president of the organization. The first ACA president was Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes later became the nineteenth president of the United States.

The American Correctional Association (ACA), originally founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, is an international organization of correctional administrators and professionals in various correctional disciplines. At the 1954 Congress of Correction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the name of the American Prison Association was changed to the American Correctional Association. The organization is composed of more than 20,000 members from 60 countries. Approximately 450 Mississippians are members of the organization.

As ACA president, Commissioner Epps will head a major publishing operation. The ACA magazine Corrections Today is the leading correctional publication. It is accompanied by over 300 other ACA publications, training curricula and videos. The ACA is a primary source of training for correctional professionals. In recognition of the growing correctional health care profession, ACA also publishes Correctional Health Today.

Mississippi is a long term beneficiary of the ACA. Through the American Correctional Association accreditation program, under the leadership of Commissioner Epps, the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has developed and or enhanced institutional programs, agency operating procedures and overall safety. This improvement is partially responsible for a decrease in recidivism from 34 percent 2003 in to the current 30 percent. Through the accreditation process, Mississippi became the 14th state to receive the ACA Eagle Award. The Eagle Award signifies that every aspect of a correctional agency that can be accredited has been accredited. Since Mississippi received the Eagle Award on August 11, 2008, one other state has received the award. Apart from the agency’s accreditation, several MDOC employees have become accredited through the ACA thus enhancing their value to the taxpayers of Mississippi.

Governor Barbour praised the Mississippi Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Commissioner Christopher Epps, for improvements in agency management and fiscal responsibility. Governor Barbour stated “It is a testimony to the leadership of the MDOC that the agency received full accreditation by an international association that Chris Epps later became president of, even while MDOC reduced its operating costs by more than $100 million during a 5-year period.”

(Interjection: I think this is the magic this man works, folks – cutting costs with lives.
It makes his boss real proud, too. -PA)


James Gondles, Executive Director of the American Correctional Association stated “In our rich and varied 140 year history only 102 women and men have been called to serve in the ACA Presidency. These leaders were the trail-blazers in our industry, the people with ideas to shape new plans for rehabilitation, to enhance public safety, and to turn offender lives around. Commissioner Epps has been called to lead and he certainly fits that pattern. We are excited about our future with President Elect Epps at the helm.”

Commissioner Epps states, “The American Correctional Association has provided me with the professional network to understand the approaches that are working in the other states and various member nations. This has been a valuable component in Mississippi’s endeavor to improve quality while reducing expenditures.” He went on to express his heartfelt appreciation for Governor Barbour’s support, the support of James Gondles, and for the membership of the ACA as a whole. He said, “In my 28 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections and my 8 years as Commissioner of Corrections, I have always known my fellow employees as a second family and have never questioned their support. Each and every one of them knows that this wasn’t just an election of Chris Epps: It was recognition of the Mississippi Department of Corrections as the best corrections agency in the U.S. and the best state agency in Mississippi. As proud as my other family is of me, I am doubly proud of them.”

SCOTT Watch: DOJ Needs to CRIPA Mississippi ASAP.

Called the warden’s and governor’s offices this weekend, then yesterday put together a packet of info to send off to the Department of Justice, requesting a CRIPA (Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons) investigation complaining about health care, using both Jamie’s and a few other documented examples of neglect/extreme indifference to prisoner health and welfare. It seems I did that once already. 

So, here’s how to request a CRIPA, as far as I know. The more people who do this and the more sources of information we have about conditions, the more likely it is that the DOJ will follow up and clean house at the MDOC.

Send the Free The Scott Sisters campaign emails with copies of letters you write on Jamie’s behalf for their records.

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Margaret J. Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
1809 East Willetta Street
Phoenix, AZ  850o6
480-580-6807
April 20, 2010
Judy Preston, Chief
US Department of Justice
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW  PHB
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Chief Preston;
Enclosed is some documentation regarding health care in Mississippi’s state prison system. The dramatic change in inmate mortality alone should have alerted your office and triggered an investigation – please don’t delay starting one any longer. The conditions are horrendous, people are dying for lack of adequate medical care, and patients seem to be completely left in the dark about their own illnesses, treatment, prognosis, etc. I believe their civil rights are being violated routinely with grave consequence. The enclosed account of retaliatory behavior on the part of the prison for Mrs. Rasco’s activism troubles me, too. We need you folks in there ASAP or her daughter, Jamie, is going to die before she’s exonerated.
A wealth of additional documentation about the medical services in the CMCF can be found at http://mississippiprisonwatch.blogspot.com , or http://freethescottsisters.blogspot.com . The welfare of Mississippi’s most vulnerable population – their prisoners, including Mrs. Rasco’s girls – is in your hands. Please at least read up on the blogs and see what we’re seeing; I don’t know how you all could not know what’s going on there. I’m getting mail from other women complaining about medical services in that particular facility, too, and expect more within the next couple of weeks. They are resisting their shoddy treatment, and writing and talking about it – there’s no better time than now to go in there…
Please let me know if your office will be following up on this complaint with a CRIPA investigation, or referring it to a more appropriate department for follow-up. Without question, though, we need some kind of federal intervention in Mississippi now. I may be asking for help in Arizona, next, but first things first.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Sincerely,
Margaret J. Plews
Prison Abolitionist