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Topics

Poor Medical Treatment in Prison Implicated in Deaths

StoryJanuary 05, 2001
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Since November, eight women have died at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. Local advocacy groups,who visited the prison, blame slow and shoddy medical care for at least some of the deaths. They also argue that theuse of guards as gatekeepers to medical treatment conflicts with their security roles.

Inmates have reported, for example, that the prison’s medical technical assistants (MTAs) — guards who serve as thefirst line of prison health care — disregarded the complaints of one inmate, Pamela Coffey, less than an hour beforeher death. There have also been reports of falsified laboratory tests, sexual harassment and improperly dispensedmedicines for chronically ill inmates.

The Central California Women’s Facility serves as a hospital and hospice for women throughout the Californian stateprison system. Some doctors there are "impaired physicians." This official term applies to doctors whose license totreat the general public has been suspended because of breaches such as drug abuse or sexual harassment.

California authorities maintain that their medical practices, which were the target of a class-action lawsuit overinadequate medical care, have improved considerably. They will launch an internal investigation into three of thedeaths within a one-month period. Critics demand a more radical overhaul. Joining is one woman whose daughter diedafter what she described as woeful neglect. Also with us are two advocates for reform.

Guests:

  • Lauren Leslie, a lawyer and Litigation and Media Director for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children,in San Francisco
  • Grace Ortega, mother of Gina Muniz, who died at 29 of cervical cancer. Ortega documented a pattern ofmedical neglect that she says led to her daughter’s death from what was diagnosed as a treatable condition.
  • Dr William Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

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