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Wisconsin: Taycheedah Lawsuit Set for Trial

On November 24, 2009, a U.S. District Court judge in Wisconsin substantially denied prison officials’ motion for partial summary judgment and set for trial a class-action suit that alleges medical and mental health care provided to female prisoners at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) violates the Eighth Amendment, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. [See: PLN, Jan. 2007, p.20]. The district court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion only to the extent that it sought dismissal of claims related to dental care.

After hearing testimony from expert witnesses the court catalogued a “mountain of evidence,” which, it found, demon-strated that “there are ‘systemic and gross deficiencies’ in staffing, facilities and procedures at TCI.” The evidence easily established that there were genuine issues of material fact sufficiently in dispute to preclude summary judgment. In the court’s words, “it [is] curious that the defendants would even bother moving for summary judgment when their own expert describes the system as one designed to let people ‘fall through the cracks.’”

Among the deficiencies noted by the court, “TCI’s nursing system places patients at risk of harm by its failure to prop-erly triage and respond to prisoner health concerns”; patients with acute conditions were not seen by an appropriate medical provider in a timely manner; “[n]urses at TCI fail to conduct nursing assessments according to nursing protocols” and thereby put patients at risk of harm; patients endure long delays without necessary care; TCI’s medication system fails to reliably provide antibiotics to patients; TCI has neither an onsite infirmary nor the ability to provide infirmary-level health care; and patients do not receive timely follow-up care after discharge from offsite hospitals.

Further, the district court held that the absence of an on-site medical director contributed to “the lack of ‘direction and ac-countability’ in the system”; in regard to mental health care, “TCI has too few psychologists and social workers to provide adequate mental health services”; prisoners with mobility-related disabilities were not allowed to eat in the dining hall with other prisoners, but were forced to eat alone in their cells; “treacherous” sidewalk paths caused wheelchair-bound prisoners to miss out on important activities, such as religious services and educational classes, or to be late for time-sensitive medical care such as insulin injections for diabetics; and TCI generally failed to accommodate prisoners with hearing and vision-related disabilities.

This case remains pending, with the parties participating in settlement discussions. A five-week trial has been sched-uled to start on September 27, 2010. See: Flynn v. Doyle, 672 F.Supp.2d 858 (E.D. Wis. 2009).

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Related legal case

Flynn v. Doyle