But this is hardly a natural, unforeseen or unpredictable consequence of mass imprisonment. Rather it is the result of deliberate policy choices made by legislators and governors and presidents alike. At a time when sickness and disease is sweeping through the nation?s prisons and jails, the United States Surgeon General is being pressured by the White House to not issue any reports on the public health implications of withholding treatment from prisoners. As former Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified to congress, the pressure came because President Bush does not want to spend money on health care for prisoners. Or put another way, billions for imprisonment, but a pittance to keep the prisoners alive and healthy. More pathetic is the fact that Carmona capitulated to the president?s pressure and the Surgeon General report on the public health impact of denying prisoners adequate medical care has yet to be released.
PLN has long made the connection and the argument between adequate health care for prisoners fostering public health for all Americans. Alas, it appears we will be making that argument for the foreseeable future since no one in a position of power is inclined, or concerned enough, to do anything about the issue. In California, the state?s prison health care system is in federal receivership after judge Thelton Henderson found that one California prisoner was needlessly dying of medical neglect every three days. California?s prison health care is no worse than any other prison health care system in the US. The only difference is the Prison Law Office had the resources to pursue a long, expensive class action litigation that virtually no one else in United States can, regardless of how bad things are.
I was recently honored by the Washington Coalition for Open Government to be awarded their James Madison Award which goes to recognize commitment to open government. The award will be presented on September 21, 2007 at the Washington Athletic Center in Seattle. The basis for the award is the recent conclusion of Prison Legal News v. Washington Department of Corrections which is, so far, the longest and biggest public records lawsuit in Washington history against any public agency. The record request from the Washington prison system resulted in the disclosure of records showing which staff had been disciplined for medical neglect and incompetence resulting in the deaths of at least two prisoners and the maiming of eight others. I had originally filed a request for the documents in January, 2000, and they were eventually released in September, 2006, after more than six years of litigation and a court battle that went all the way to the Washington state Supreme Court and the case concluded in June, 2007. PLN was represented by Michele Earl Hubbard, Alison Howard and Andy Mar of Davis, Wright and Tremaine in that epic case and we eventually prevailed in the state supreme court thanks to their skill and dedication in representing PLN. We will report the full details of the case and settlement in an upcoming issue of PLN. My thanks to the WA COG for the award as well as the support they provided in amicus briefs in the state appeals court and the state supreme court.
PLN?s website continues to grow with a lot more new materials such as briefs, complaints, settlements, publications, reports, cases and more, being added on a daily basis. We also operate a free list serv where those with e mail access can sign up to receive news stories and court rulings every day. Please note that we lack the resources to print out and mail website materials to prisoners. You need to ask friends and family members to do that for you. The PLN website has all issues of PLN, every article we have published, plus thousands more articles and case summaries, about 7,000 court rulings and a lot more.
Finally, we would like to extend our deepest thanks to Marie Gottschalk, the author of The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America who generously donated her first royalty check of $1,288.29 to PLN! It is donations such as that, above and beyond the cost of subscriptions which allow PLN to undertake the advocacy work we do on behalf of prisoners, censorship and public records litigation and much more. Thank you Marie for the generous donation.
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