Prisoners often believe that prison health care personnel are second-rate and incompetent, and likely couldn’t find work in non-correctional settings. The December 2, 2009 resignation of a Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) psychiatrist whose license was revoked lent credence to that belief.
Emanuel John Falcone was hired in April 2008 as a psychiatrist at the Florida State Prison, and was promoted to a full-time position in August 2009. He obtained the $188,000-a-year job despite the FDOC interviewer being advised that Falcone had lost his New York medical license for having sex with a mentally ill patient.
In 2003, Falcone’s girlfriend, a licensed clinical social worker in Manhattan, began treating a woman who suffered from multiple personality disorder. The patient-client relationship continued after Falcone and his girlfriend married and moved to Florida in 2005.
When his wife shared the patient’s information with him, Falcone became “fascinated” by her alternative personalities, some of which were children. He began communicating with the woman by phone, took over her treatment, and pre-scribed medication for her. A sexual relationship began when Falcone and the woman met in New York in 2006; it contin-ued during a weekend trip to Florida later that year.
At a New York Bureau of Professional Medical Conduct hearing in September 2008, Falcone said he never consid-ered his interactions with the woman to be therapy or treatment. The Bureau rejected that explanation and permanently revoked Falcone’s medical license in October 2008 due to professional misconduct, gross and repeated incompetence and negligence, and failing to maintain medical records.
“He was too selfishly motivated and lost sight of his oath,” the Bureau stated. “... We saw no remorse, no humility, no sign that he understood the great harm that he caused despite his attempt to present a speech that was supposed to con-vince us otherwise.”
Although the FDOC was aware of the revocation of Falcone’s medical license in New York, he was still promoted to provide full-time psychiatric services to prisoners. It was only after the Florida Times-Union questioned Falcone’s history of professional misconduct that the FDOC decided to look into the situation, which led Falcone to resign.
“It was a poor judgment and once the [FDOC] secretary learned about it, he asked that we talk to Dr. Falcone to learn more and once we began talking to him, he resigned,” said FDOC spokesperson Gretl Plessinger.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health had initiated an investigation of Falcone in December 2008 and began proceedings to revoke his Florida medical license in April 2009; however, that information evidently was not shared with the FDOC at the time Falcone was promoted to a full-time position.
On December 4, 2009 the Florida Board of Medicine voted unanimously to revoke Falcone’s license to practice in that state. “If he’s not qualified to practice in New York, he’s not qualified to practice here,” said Board member Jason Rosenberg. “I don’t see where we have a choice,” added Elisabeth Tucker, another Board member. “We may disdain prisoners, but they deserve quality health care.”
In theory, anyway. After all, it is unknown how many other medical employees in Florida’s prison system have past re-cords of professional misconduct, incompetence and negligence.
Sources: Florida Times-Union, www.jacksonville.com, www.panhandleparade.com
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