Shelved prison project irks NV lawmakers


From: Las Vegas Sun

The Associated Press
Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 | 10:27 a.m.

Nevada lawmakers are frustrated that $500,000 was been spent to design a prison project that won’t be built.

The 2009 Legislature approved $7.8 million to convert space at the High Desert State Prison in Clark County into a medical unit. It was described as a high priority by Corrections Director Howard Skolnik.

But the Las Vegas Sun reports Corrections Director Howard Skolnik told a legislative subcommittee Thursday that given the state’s budget crisis, there will be no money to staff it.

He also says the inmate population has held steady, eliminating the need for the medical unit.

The subcommittee agreed to abandon the project than spend $7 million for construction.

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

Nevada houses 10 times more people with mental illness in jails than in psychiatric facilities

New Report: Jail More Likely Than Treatment For Americans With Psychiatric Disorders

From: Disability Scoop
By Michelle Diament
May 13, 2010

Americans with severe mental illness are three times more likely to go to prison than to a psychiatric hospital, new research indicates.

While the likelihood varies by state, there is no state where individuals experiencing diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital than a jail, the findings from a new report conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association indicate.

The best case scenario appears to be in North Dakota where the odds are one to one that a person with mental illness will be in prison or a psychiatric hospital. In contrast, Arizona and Nevada each host 10 times more people with mental illness in their jails than in psychiatric facilities.

Read more here

Report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (PDF).

Nevada houses 10 times more people with mental illness in jails than in psychiatric facilities

New Report: Jail More Likely Than Treatment For Americans With Psychiatric Disorders

From: Disability Scoop
By Michelle Diament
May 13, 2010

Americans with severe mental illness are three times more likely to go to prison than to a psychiatric hospital, new research indicates.

While the likelihood varies by state, there is no state where individuals experiencing diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital than a jail, the findings from a new report conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association indicate.

The best case scenario appears to be in North Dakota where the odds are one to one that a person with mental illness will be in prison or a psychiatric hospital. In contrast, Arizona and Nevada each host 10 times more people with mental illness in their jails than in psychiatric facilities.

Read more here

Report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (PDF).

CCA: High Cost of Medical Care Cited in Decision to Turn it Back to the State

Apr. 30, 2010

CCA ended pact to run women’s prison in ’04
HIGH COST OF MEDICAL CARE CITED IN DECISION TO TURN IT BACK TO THE STATE
Pahrump Valley Times
By MARK WAITE

While Corrections Corporation of America is close to opening an $80 million federal detention center in Pahrump, the company chose an early termination of their contract to operate the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas in 2004 due to the high cost of medical care.

The Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, scheduled to begin accepting inmates in October, is a male-only facility. CCA was awarded a 20-year contract by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee to build and operate the Pahrump facility, which is up for renewal every five years.

At a Jan. 28, 2004 meeting of the State Interim Finance Committee, the Nevada Department of Corrections considered taking over inmate medical care at the women’s prison from CCA March 1 that year. But talk then expanded to the state taking over the facility completely.

Senate Bill 278, approved by the 1995 Nevada Legislature, allocated $44 million to construct a new women’s correctional center in southern Nevada. CCA constructed a correctional facility for 550 inmates and began housing the female prisoners. The state purchased the land, buildings and equipment from CCA on Oct. 3, 2001, with an operating contract to remain in effect through June 30, 2015, according to minutes provided by the research division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

CCA was given a per diem rate of $40.03 per inmate, which was to increase by 3 percent per year. By 2004 that rate increased to $47.79. The contract provided for automatic renewals every three years, with a renewal scheduled Oct. 3, 2004.

CCA and the state DOC had been in discussions over the per diem rate and the provision of health care to the facility for three years.

Nevada DOC Medical Administrator Chuck Schardin reported CCA health care costs increased 21 percent from $2.4 million in 2002 to almost $3 million in 2003. Off-site expenses alone nearly doubled from $589,840 to $1.06 million.

The minutes show a dramatic reduction of inmates from projected numbers also caused difficulties. While the women’s correctional facility held 550 inmates at one time, there was a population of only 445 inmates in early 2003. In spring 2002, CCA alleged inmates from honor camps with medical problems were being dumped at the women’s prison.

In excerpts of the minutes from the Jan. 28, 2004, meeting, Tony Grande, CCA vice-president for state relations, said, “Continuing the contract would be exceedingly difficult if CCA was not able to remedy the costs related to medical services being provided at SNWCF.”

Dr. Ted D’Amico, medical director for the state DOC, is quoted in March 31, 2004, as saying: “CCA had struggled with the medical care of inmates from the start because of their inability to hire good administrators.”

The intake process at the correctional facility required assistance from the Nevada DOC during a year in which the medical director’s budget absorbed nearly $300,000 of medical care costs, D’Amico said.

CCA had problems providing timely dental care to inmates, who had to be incarcerated for six months before dental care was provided, D’Amico said. The company provided a half-time dentist, he said.

There were also concerns about psychotropic medications and HIV program standards.

John Tighe, CCA vice president of health services, was quoted as saying bluntly, “Operating an institution housing female inmates was not an easy task.”

CCA was committed to providing quality care at the women’s prison and had to fill in employment gaps, flying in staff from other areas using temporary and agency personnel, which wasn’t cost effective, Tighe said.

State Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, suggested the state assume operation of the entire facility, instead of just the medical care.

Following that discussion, CCA provided a notice of contract termination Feb. 23, 2004, effective Oct. 1, 2004.

D’Amico “commended CCA’s expertise and hard work during the length of their contract with the state.”

The facility, now under state management, is now known as the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center.

California loses fight to end prison oversight

Apr. 30, 2010
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The Schwarzenegger administration lost a legal fight Friday to end oversight of California’s prison health care system.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge can continue with a court-appointed receiver to improve inmate medical care.

The appeals court also dismissed the administration’s request to stop the receiver’s construction plans to add medical beds.

Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the state will appeal the entire ruling to a larger panel of the appeals court.

California has been trying to end federal oversight of the state’s prison system, largely because of the growing costs. The state is facing a projected $20 billion deficit through June 2011.

State officials argued the receiver in charge of making improvements had no right to order the construction of 10,000 new beds, which would cost about $6 billion.

The receiver has since responded with a more modest proposal to build two prison hospitals to house 3,400 inmates at a cost of $1.9 billion.

The appeals court upheld the district court’s authority to appoint a receiver, saying it was the least intrusive way to remedy prisoners’ rights.

The state did not oppose or appeal when the court appointed the receiver back in 2006 to improve care at the state’s 33 adult prisons.

“We are compelled to point out that … the state is in a poor position to assert this objection to the receivership,” the court panel wrote. “The receivership was imposed only after the state admitted its inability to comply with consent orders intended to remedy the constitutional violations in its prisons.”

Link to article click Here

The Parole Commission in Wisconsin

From the Friends of Steven Stewart:

Steven Stewart will be coming before the Wisconsin Parole Commission in May of this year. We want to help Steven parole, therefore we have to write letters of recommendation to the commission. In searching for the right contact information, we found this very old piece about the Parole Commission (dating from before 2003 if you read closely).

We will be contacting the parole commission and ask them to see what is happening to people in Wisconsin who are eligible for parole, but who are barred from pursuing an education, training, work release program, let alone medical care. Who are locked up in the supermax indefinitely with no help from society, no rehabilitation, nothing. And we all, the tax payers, pay for this inadequate system of warehousing people. The lack of parole possibilities and help to move forward is hurting us all.

Here is what it says on the website of WI Department of Corrections about the Parole Commission: The Parole Commission in Wisconsin

Ms. Deirdre Morgan,
Chair 2701
International Lane
Suite 201
P.O. Box 7960
Madison, WI 53707-7960
Phone (608) 240-7280
Facsimile: (608) 240-7299
Email: parole.comm@doc.state.wi.us

Commissioners
Fred Melendez
Dennis Meier
M. Jeanne Huibregtse
Steven Landreman
Jayne Hackbarth
Sharon Williams
Fran Paul

The Parole Commission is the final authority for granting discretionary paroles or early release from prison. The Commission conducts parole interviews with eligible inmates sentenced to the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

A Commissioner meets with an inmate individually and makes an independent decision on the possibility of a parole grant.

The Governor appoints the Commission’s chairperson with the advice and consent of the Senate for a two-year term. The current Chairperson’s term expires March 1, 2003.

The Wisconsin Parole Commission is attached to the Department of Corrections for administrative purposes but it implements its statutory responsibilities independently. Current commission members are selected by the Chairperson.

How Does an Offender Receive a Parole in Wisconsin?

Under the sentencing law in existence previous to Truth-in-Sentencing, an inmate becomes eligible for parole consideration after serving one-quarter of his or her sentences. At the Parole Interview, a Parole Commissioner will gather information needed to determine if the offender will be granted a parole.

Parole Interviews are conducted at the institution where the offender is incarcerated. There are no “courtrooms” at institutions, so the rooms chosen for these hearings are usually offices or small conference rooms. An offender granted parole will be released and will not need another Parole Interview.

If the Parole Interview does not result in a Parole grant, there will be a comment from the Parole Commissioner as to when the offender may be eligible for Parole again. This is called a defer. For example, offenders may be given a “12-month defer” or a “24-month defer”, etc., and their Parole Eligibility Dates (PED) will change accordingly. This means that the offender will not again be eligible for parole until that amount of time has passed. Other than the first Parole Interview (which occurs one month before the PED), all other Parole Interviews will occur approximately two months before the new Parole Eligibility Dates.

In cases where a judge has stipulated that an offender has no Parole Eligibility Date, the offender will actually serve their entire sentence, without any consideration for Parole.

For offenders that have committed a felony on or after 12/31/99 under the new Truth-in-Sentencing law, early parole consideration is not available. In cases such as this, the judge determines the length of time served in prison and the length of time on Extended Supervision.

Parole Commission members review many things when considering parole for an offender. Some examples of things reviewed include offense(s) committed, previous convictions, time served and time remaining on the sentence, letters from victims/witnesses or concerned parties, program participation, and any reports of misconduct while incarcerated.

Criteria for Parole

The following criteria are considered for parole consideration:
– Reached the parole eligibility date in his or her sentence.
– Served sufficient time for punishment of his or her crime(s).
– Shown positive changes in behavior as well as documented progress in programming, treatment and/or educational achievement.
– A viable parole plan which offers the offender realistic opportunities for a stable residence, employment, and programming if needed.
– An acceptably reduced level of risk to the public. (The criteria for determining risk include past criminal and incarceration record, probation and parole violations, security classification, and any unmet treatment or programs needs.)

Truth-In-Sentencing

Under the new Truth-in-Sentencing laws, any person who commits a felony offense on or after December 31, 1999, and is sentenced to at least one year of confinement in prison will not be eligible for early parole. They are required to serve the entire sentence imposed by the Court. However, offenders who violate prison rules may have additional days added to the confinement portion of their sentence.

Upon completion of the confinement portion of their sentence, an offender must serve a period of extended supervision in the community under the supervision of a Department of Corrections Community Corrections agent. At the time of sentencing, a judge determines the length of confinement and the length of extended supervision an offender must serve. By law, the length of extended supervision must be at least ¼ of the time of confinement.

What is the difference between Probation and Parole?

Probation is a decision handed down by the judge at trial. It may be in lieu of jail time or in combination with some jail time. It allows the convicted person to live in the community for a specified period of time under the supervision of a probation officer. Depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the crime, the judge can specify restrictions on the offender’s activities during the probationary period. If an offender violates the conditions or rules of probation, he or she may be sentenced to imprisonment by the judge. This is known as revoking the probation or revocation.

Parole is the early release of an inmate who has served part of his or her sentence. The inmate is allowed to return to the community under the conditions of parole and the supervision of parole agent. Violation of these conditions can result in a revocation of the parole and re-imprisonment for the offender.

The decision to grant parole is the responsibility of the Parole Commission.

ACLU Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care At Women’s Prison To Proceed

ACLU Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care At Women’s Prison To Proceed
Federal Judge Rejects State Request To Dismiss Class Action Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE ERELEASE
November 25, 2009

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin, (414) 272-4032, ext.13; cahmuty@aclu-wi.org

MILWAUKEE – A federal judge has denied a request by Wisconsin state officials to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Jenner & Block charging that grossly deficient health care and mental health treatment jeopardizes the lives of women prisoners at a state prison.

In a sternly-worded ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph T. Randa said there “is a great deal of evidence demonstrating that there are systemic and gross deficiencies in staffing, facilities and procedures” at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), Wisconsin’s largest women’s prison, and that the evidence suggests that state prison officials “are and have been subjectively aware of the risks that are posed by the administration of medical and mental health care at
TCI.” Judge Randa described the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed as “curious” given that the state’s own expert witness described health care at TCI as a system “designed to let people ‘fall through the cracks.’”

“I am pleased that the court is allowing our litigation to proceed and look forward to bringing the case to trial,” said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Without court-ordered changes, women at TCI will continue to suffer needlessly in a system that still fails to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.”

In a first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit filed in 2006 on behalf of women prisoners in Wisconsin, the ACLU charges that the state prison system puts the lives of women prisoners at risk through grossly deficient health care, provides far inferior mental health treatment as compared to men and fails to provide reasonable accommodations to allow prisoners with disabilities to access basic prison services. Judge Randa’s decision allows all three claims to proceed to trial.

The lawsuit asks the court to order reforms to the system so that constitutionally adequate care is made available. In April 2009, Judge Randa entered a preliminary injunction ordering that significant changes be made immediately to TCI’s dangerous system of administering medications to prisoners.

The ACLU’s lawsuit charges that the prison’s health system violates the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit also charges the health system violates the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection, because the women receive mental health care far inferior to what male prisoners receive. The ACLU says in the lawsuit that these lapses in mental health care occur against the backdrop of a prison system that has a suicide rate of twice the national average.

“Judge Randa’s decision recognizes a ‘mountain of evidence’ showing the continued failure of state officials to fix a system that has been in crisis for years,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “It is far past time that state officials be held accountable.”

The lawsuit names as defendants a number of senior officials in the state corrections department as well as Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

A copy of Judge Randa’s ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/flynn-et-al-vdoyle-
et-al-decision-and-order

A copy of the ACLU complaint is available online at: www.acluwi.
org/wisconsin/police_prisons/TCI%20Complaint%20–%20for%20filing.pdf

We are wondering how many people must die here in the Supermax?

“We are wondering how many people must die here in the Supermax before they find the source of this problem, these so-called ‘invesigations’ the department claims to have launched is like a dud firecracker. There will never be a ‘bang’ to solve this problem, not when you are investigating yourself.

We are wondering what happened with no investigation when the brother Lornell Evans died up here Oct. 2, 2005? We don’t even remember seeing an initial report in the newspaper from State Corrections Department John Dipko – is it because Mr. Evans is black and mr. Rundel is white? No, we are not playing the race card here, just laying out the evidence. We are all prisoners in my book, and every prisoner is my fellow brother of this ongoing struggle for peace & justice at the hand of the opprerssors. It could be because of liability, the way Mr. Lornell Evans died, and the way mr. Steven T. Rundel died.

After a major operation Mr. Evans was brought back here to the Supermax, when he should have stayed at the hospital where he could be watched by trained doctors & nurses, but here they just left him in a cell and after he (Mr. Evans) informed them that his stomach hurts and he could not eat, they never sent him back out to the hospital or no institution nurse at this facility came down to check him – the next day he was dead (R.I.P. Soljah).

Now since Mr. Steven T. Rundel died at his own hands, and was a convicted child molester, it is easier for the oppressors to drag his name through the mud, knowing the public will turn a blind eye to a child molester’s death. We can’t play into the oppressors’ hands, I’m on the inside and know better, we asked why have two people died here this year? Why wasn’t Mr. Evans sent back to the hospital? Why happened with the Jones-El and Johnson- v. Berge, et al. Class Action Agreement that all prisoners must be screened by a psychologist for any kind of mental illness before they are sent here to the Supermax – someone failed in this screening process.

Mr. Steven T. Rundel clearly had some kind of mental illness to take his life, he was not there a good month-and-a-half. John Dipko the Department spokesman said “the Department has launched an invetigation into how Rundel was able to construct a noose from his bedsheets and hanging himself without attracting notice of prison personnel.” Even a monkey will figure this out. Prison personnel don’t give a damn about prisoners’ well-being, and I’m in a room constructed the same way as Mr.Rundel’s and there’s no place in this room to hang yourself but on the bars on the door, and the crazy thing about it is that the bars play no purpose in supporting the door, they can cut the two bars off the door. This was an incident just waiting to happen – the doors on Alpha unit don’t have these bars on it, so why do these doors need them? This is monkey science. Take the bars off the doors, they don’t need them – their investigation will go nowhere.

We on the inside are callling for help. How many more must die, hear our voices, hear our cry comrades. The bars on the door are about five feet off the floor so Mr. Rundel had to kneel down with his feet still on the floor. Rounds: all staff are supposed to make their rounds on the range: white shirts, unit manager, nurses, social workers, and crisis workers. The white shirts, unit manager, nurses, social workers, and crisis workers might come on the unit and sign in at the sergeant cage, but no rounds on the ranges where the prisoners are at, unless it’s some kind of emergencyor a prisoner is getting suited up on. This will be the time you can catch them on the range – ‘some’ sergeants make rounds – not all – all frontlline officer will make rounds – and one psychologist, Dr. Hughes has for the last 30 days been making rounds once a week cell to cell asking prisoners if they are okay. No-one else is concerned. So this is how Mr. Rundel hung himself without attracting notice of prison personnel.”[January 1st, 2006)