ACLU Says Failure To Properly Administer Medicines At Wisconsin Prison Puts Women's Lives At Risk
While health care reform and universal health care are on the minds of many voters and politicians, women in Wisconsin prisons face an even worse reality.
The ACLU of Wisconsin, ACLU National Prison Project and the law firm of Jenner & Block today filed a motion in federal court seeking an immediate halt to the dangerously dysfunctional health care and drug system for prisoners at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution, Wisconsin's largest women's prison.
The failure of prison officials at Taycheedah to ensure that prisoners properly receive medication has forced numerous women to endure unnecessary and prolonged illness, injury, pain and hospitalization and all prisoners receiving medications are at a significant risk of harm and even death. The motion charges that prison officials have known for years that prisoners have been at significant risk, but despite knowing ways to reduce that risk have simply failed to take the actions necessary to do so.
"The medication system at Taycheedah is a disaster waiting to happen," said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. "For some medications, there is not even a system of checking for dangerous interactions between drugs before a prisoner starts taking a new prescription. The clock is ticking while the state gambles with the health and safety of over 700 women."
No matter what their crime, medical neglect should not be a part of their sentence. And the lack of health care and insurance can be linked to crimes that land women in jail in the first place: from alcoholism to substance abuse and mental illness. Our prisons now are filled with people who once could get treatment from hospitals.
At Taycheedah, medications - including powerful psychiatric medications - are administered to prisoners by correctional officers with no medical training. As a result, prisoners frequently receive medications prescribed for other prisoners and overdoses of their own medications. Taycheedah is one of the few state prisons in the nation that does not require nurses or similarly trained medical personnel to administer prisoners' medications.
"Taycheedah's medication system causes needless pain and suffering," said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director for the ACLU of Wisconsin. "The Constitution prohibits the state from ignoring a substantial threat to the health and safety of the women at Taycheedah." The ACLU of Wisconsin first filed a class-action lawsuit in 2006 to get the state to provide accurate and timely prescriptions and health care for the female prisoners.
More on this issue is online: copy of the motion, information on the ACLU’s work for the rights of incarcerated people, and more information on how to support the ACLU of Wisconsin.