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Temporary Injunction Issued in Alabama Suit

On June 26, 2003, the parties in Baker v. Campbell agreed to the entry of a temporary preliminary injunction which, among other things, provides for "immediate" and "adequate" medical care for Alabama prisoners with serious illnesses.

The "Preliminary Injunction Settlement Agreement" stems from a class action suit filed by prisoners at the St. Clair Correctional Facility against the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) and Naphcare, a for-profit company that contracts with Alabama to provide medical services to its prisoners. (See: Baker et al., v. Campbell, et al., No. CV-03-C-1114-Mt U.S, District-Court for the Northern District of Alabama.) The suit was brought because of "the grossly inadequate medical care provided to them" by ADOC and Naphcare. Among the illnesses-the 11 named plaintiffs claim the defendants allowed to go untreated are cancer, lung disease, hemophilia, Hepatitis C, deafness, and other serious medical conditions. The suit alleged that defendants' negligence is causing plaintiff's to suffer "serious harm and are at great risk of further harm, including death."

In fact, after the original complaint was filed, lead plaintiff Jerry Baker, suffering from lung disease, died on May 15, 2003 from "the failure to fill his prescribed medications," according to the amended complaint filed May 23.

The same day plaintiffs' attorneys Morris Dees, Rhonda Brownstein, Grace Graham, and Kelley Bruner all of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery filed the amended complaint, they also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on behalf of their clients seeking "immediate relief." The agreement states that it is in the parties' "best interests to resolve the motion" without going to court. Among the provisions agreed to in the injunction:

n Defendants must immediately hire a full time, forty-hour-per-week primary care physician who will be assigned to the St. Clair facility. The physician must not be duplicative of the oncologist, nephrologist and dentist who already work at St. Clair.

n Defendants must immediately hire 13 full-time and 2 part-time registered and licensed practical nurses, as well as one part-time nurse practitioner. Naphcare is additionally required to hire additional nursing staff "as necessary" and to keep plaintiffs apprised of their "good faith effort" to fill the additional staff positions in a timely manner.

n Defendants agreed to provide "all prescribed medication and necessary medical supplies" in a timely manner.

n Defendants agreed to provide all "necessary off-site medical specialty consultants and treatment" in a timely manner.

The injunction agreement is temporary and is valid pending final resolution of the litigation. The defendants also agreed to make the agreement enforceable by the court, while at the same time maintaining that "this agreement does not constitute an admission of liability."

While prisoners at one Alabama prison might now, as a result of this agreement, receive the medical treatment they deserve, it is a sad commentary that it took a court injunction to get even that far.

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Related legal case

Baker v. Campbell