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Delaware Legislature Rejects Bill Upgrading Prison Health Care

by David M. Reutter

After a public outcry condemned the health care services provided to prisoners held by the
Delaware Department of Corrections, (DDOC) the Delaware Legislature has passed a bill that
provides an inflation adjustment for services and created three oversight positions. PLN
reported upon the lack of health care provided DDOC prisoners. See: PLN, December 2005,

The legislature rejected a larger bill that would have required all prisoners entering DDOC to be
tested for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Guards would be trained as medical caregivers
and the medical vendor, Correctional Medical Services, (CMS) would be required to send prisoner
grievances to DDOC for resolution and provide records of prisoner deaths for review within three

The bill would have required special care provisions for pregnant prisoners, which seems to be a
particularly lacking area. In March 2005, a female prisoner gave birth to premature twins in a
bathroom stall at the Baylor Womens Correctional Institution. She complained afterwards that a
CMS nurse ignored her complaints that she was experiencing labor contractions, which started
24 hours prior to the births.

The legislative bill would have required guards to be advised when a prisoner is pregnant and all
decisions concerning the prisoner's activity, medication, medical attention, and nutrition made
by correctional staff. Such prisoners would also receive vitamin and mineral supplements, and
require the prisoner be taken to a hospital if a medical staff person is not present when labor

That bill, however, was rejected because it had a $30 million price tag. If were spending $30
million to fix a $29 million system, were really in a mess, said Sen. James Vaughn, D-Clayton.
We need to get a real picture of what's going on before we do anything like that.

Instead, the legislature approved a $2.9 million bill as an inflation adjustment for the CMS
contract. It also allotted $238,900 as salary to create two health administrator positions to
monitor health care received by prisoners and a person to oversee substance abuse services.

Meanwhile, Sen. Margaret Rose Henry promised to re-introduce legislation to improve prisoner
health care. It is an issue thats a big concern to a lot of legislatures. Henry said. Its not going

The lack of fiscal resources and a company with an interest in cutting services to increase its
profitability means poor health care for DDOC prisoners is not going away. Once again, its
business as usual for the prison industrial complex.

Source: The News Journal;

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