by Douglas Ankney
A county in rural Kansas is jailing people over unpaid medical debt, CBS News reported in February 2020. The county is Coffeyville, Kansas, which has a poverty rate twice the national average.
It’s also the place where attorneys such as Michael Hassenplug have built a successful law practice assisting medical providers to collect debt owed by their neighbors.
Coffeyville has a policy that requires people with unpaid medical bills to appear in court every three months. In what is termed a “medical exam,” the debtors must swear they are too poor to pay. The policy was put in place through Hassenplug’s recommendation to the local judge. “I’m just doing my job,” Hassenplug insisted. “They want the money collected, and I’m trying to do my job as best I can by following the law.”
But the policy also provides for the arrest of anyone who misses two debtor’s exams. Bail is set at $500, which in most jurisdictions is refunded once the bailee appears in court. But in Coffeyville, it goes to attorneys and to the medical companies.
Tres Biggs’ son has leukemia and his wife suffers from Lyme disease. Working two jobs, he missed two exams. “You wouldn’t think you’d go to jail over medical bills,” Biggs said. “I was scared to death. I’m a country kid. I had to strip down, get hosed, and put a jumpsuit on.”
Lizzie Presser from ProPublica reported that the judge in Coffeyville has no law degree, but in the last year had issued more than 30 warrants against medical defendants, with 11 jailed.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login
More from this issue:
- These Sheriffs Release Sick Inmates to Avoid Paying Their Hospital Bills, by Connor Sheets, AL.com, with ProPublica
- North Carolina Prisoner Escapes to Flee Coronavirus Death Sentence, by David Reutter
- From the Editor, by Paul Wright
- Company Hawking Prison Phone Monitoring Technology as Way to Discover Coronavirus Infections, by Matthew Clarke
- Thinking in a Pandemic: Let the People Go, by Joseph Margulies
- BOP Loses Fight Against Orders to Release Ohio Prisoners Threatened By Coronavirus
- Staying Alive: A Doctor’s Guide for Prisoners on Staying Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic, by Michael D. Cohen, MD
- ‘Prisons Are No Place for a Pandemic:’ Advocates Fight to Free Their Loved Ones, by Victoria Law
- Former Missouri Jail Prisoner Ordered to Repay $1.3 Million Settlement for Faking Injuries But Whereabouts Unknown, by Jayson Hawkins
- GEO Jail in New York City Sees Rapid Spread of Coronavirus
- Coronavirus Kills Michigan Prisoner Days Before His Release After Serving 44 Years, by Chad Marks
- Prison Postcards: Official Accounts Differ from Prisoner Accounts as the Pandemic Spreads, by Ken Silverstein
- Interview: David Fathi of ACLU’s National Prison Project on Criminal Justice Reform in the Age of Coronavirus, by Ken Silverstein
- Coronavirus Pandemic Could Vastly Reduce Prison Voting, by David Reutter
- Eleventh Circuit Says COVID-19-Wracked Miami Jail Can’t Be Forced to Give Prisoners Soap, Masks, by David M. Reutter
- Ohio Prisoner with Coronavirus Released Without Use of Preventative Measures; Cases Inside Soaring, by Kevin Bliss
- Large Scale Releases and Public Safety, by Peter Wagner
- Alabama Reopens Ancient Prison to Quarantine COVID-19 Prisoners, by Edward Lyon
- CoreCivic Detention Center Demanded Detainees Sign Liability Release to Receive Masks, by Kevin Bliss, David Reutter
- COVID-19 Cases Soar at Federal Prisons in California; Half at Lompoc Have the Coronavirus, by Derek Gilna
- Unsealed Documents Expose Treatment Failures at San Diego Jail, by Anthony Accurso
- Federal Court Slams Michigan Jail for Bungling COVID-19 Pandemic, Demands Names of Vulnerable Prisoners for Release, by Christopher Zoukis
- Prison Officials Limit Prisoner Communications During COVID-19 Crisis, by Derek Gilna
- Rhode Island Corrections’ Union President Fined for Excessive Political Donations, by Bill Barton
- Silence: The Bureau of Prisons’ Pathetic Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, by Christopher Zoukis
- Hawaii Institutes Non-Contact Visits at Another Prison to Control Contraband, by Kevin Bliss
- Number of California Prisoners Falling; Lifer Population Declines Slightly as Well, by Edward Lyon
- New York Judge Orders Release of 18 Rikers Island Detainees Due to COVID-19 Risk, by Christopher Zoukis
- Kansas County Jails People for Unpaid Medical Bills, by Douglas Ankney
- $200,000 Awarded to Missouri Prison Guard Over Sexual Harassment, Retaliation, by Matthew Clarke
- New ACLU Study Says COVID-19 Deaths in Prison Will Soar Without More Releases, Fewer Arrests, by Derek Gilna
- Deplorable Conditions at South Carolina Prisons Prompt Call for UN Intervention, by Edward Lyon
- Louisiana Governor’s Inaction Prevents Release of Grandmother Hospitalized with COVID-19, by Kevin Bliss
- Report: Oaks of Justice Pitch to Help Prisoners Return Home Appears Shady, by Bill Barton
- First Prisoners and Staff, Including a Warden, Dead from COVID-19 in Louisiana; Hundreds Infected, by David Reutter
- Florida Continues to Use Slave Labor During Coronavirus Outbreak, by Kevin Bliss
- Interview: Don Specter of the Prison Law Office on California Prisons, COVID-19 and Governor Newsom, by Ken Silverstein
- Report: Tennessee Prison Population Climbs, Bucks Nationwide Trend, by David Reutter
- Mississippi Jail to Stay Open Despite Massive “Financial Trouble”, by Chad Marks
- Audit: Massachusetts Department of Corrections Failed to Provide Timely Health Care or Reentry Services, by Douglas Ankney
- Nebraska Prison Employee Labor Agreement Contains Unusual Provision, by Matthew Clarke
- Sandoval County, New Mexico Settles Public Records Lawsuit with Human Rights Defense Center, by Derek Gilna
- Coronavirus Crisis: Wisconsin Releases Around 1,600 Prisoners, an ‘Inconsequential’ Number
- New York Federal Guard Sentenced to 25 Years for Sexually Abusing Prisoners, by David Reutter
- California Prison Reform Results in Housing Challenges for Former Prisoners, by Anthony Accurso
- Sign the Papers! Alabama Prisoners Get Masks for COVID-19 but With Strings Attached, by Edward Lyon
- HRDC Settles California Jail Censorship Suit for $143,500, Consent Decree, by Derek Gilna
- More Than 200 Convicted of Corruption at Baltimore Department of Corrections; More Charges Announced, by Kevin Bliss
- Innocence Project Working to Prove Arkansas Executed Innocent Man, by Edward Lyon
- $500,000 Settlement for Colorado Prisoner Beaten During Seizure, by David Reutter
- Tenth Circuit Reinstates Colorado Prisoner’s Claim that Requires BOP to Release Him from Imprisonment for Marijuana Possession, by Matthew Clarke
- $500,000 Settlement From Psychiatrist for Failing to Treat New Mexico Prisoner Who Committed Suicide, by Matthew Clarke
- Florida Prison Officials Ordered to Not Retaliate Against Prisoner, by David Reutter
- Nevada Supreme Court Holds Firefighting Prisoner Cannot Challenge Worker’s Compensation Based on Prison Pay, by Matthew Clarke
- $2,800 Verdict As Jury Finds Pennsylvania Jail Discriminated Against Women Prisoners in Reentry Center, by David Reutter
- Tornado Rips Through South Carolina, Displacing Federal Prisoners, by Matthew Clarke
- Gallup Poll Shows Growing Opposition to Death Penalty, by Douglas Ankney
- Federal Judge Keeps Heat on Florida to Implement Amendment 4 Voter Restoration for Ex-Felons, by David Reutter
- News in Brief
More from Douglas Ankney:
- Connecticut Prisoner Population Lowest in Over Three Decades Due to Coronavirus, June 1, 2021
- Felony Murder: The Crotchet of American Murder Jurisprudence, May 15, 2021
- Sixth Circuit Orders New Trial and Reassigns Case to Different Judge Where District Court’s Mishandling Deprived Defendants of Meaningful Opportunity to Prove Juror Bias, May 15, 2021
- Philadelphia’s Progressive Reform-Minded DA Has Made Tremendous Strides – But Are They Enough to Win Reelection?, May 15, 2021
- Minnesota Supreme Court Clarifies Meaning of ‘Mentally Incapacitated’ Regarding Consent to Sexual Contact, May 15, 2021
- Fourth Circuit: Police Description of ‘More Deliberate’ Second Handshake Than First Handshake Doesn’t Give Rise to Reasonable Suspicion of Drug Transaction Justifying Terry Stop, May 15, 2021
- Washington Supreme Court Reaffirms Workman’s Lesser Included Offense Test and Clarifies Confusion in its Application, May 15, 2021
- Washington Supreme Court Announces State’s Strict-Liability Drug Possession Law Is Unconstitutional, May 15, 2021
- California Supreme Court Announces Conditioning Pretrial Release on Ability to Afford Bail Unconstitutional, May 15, 2021
- Ohio Supreme Court: Touching ‘Fog Line’ Doesn’t Justify Traffic Stop, May 15, 2021
More from these topics:
- Medical Copays for Prisoners Suspended in Several States Due to COVID-19, May 1, 2021. Medical Expenses, COVID-19.
- These Sheriffs Release Sick Inmates to Avoid Paying Their Hospital Bills, June 1, 2020. Medical Expenses, Diabetes, Failure to Treat.
- Texas Prison Health Care Costs at Record High Despite Population Reduction, May 1, 2020. Medical Expenses, Elderly Defendants, Inadequate Health Care Facilities.
- Growing Concerns Over Medical Debt Leading to Jail Time, Feb. 4, 2020. Medical Expenses.
- Arizona Prisoners Required to Pay Medical Expenses for Overdoses, Feb. 4, 2020. Medical, Medical Expenses, Drug Overdose.
- Beyond Estelle: Medical Rights for Incarcerated Patients, Nov. 4, 2019. Medical, Medical Records, Medical Expenses, Consent to Treatment, Forcible Treatment.
- Tennessee: High Cost of Drugs Cited as Reason to Deny Prisoners Hep C Treatment, Dec. 5, 2017. Medical Expenses, Hepatitis, Failure to Treat.
- Georgia Prison Doctor Rewarded for Cutting Costs as Prisoners Died Under His Care, Dec. 5, 2017. Medical, Medical Expenses, Malpractice, Conditions of Confinement.
- Out of Prison, Uncovered, May 5, 2017. Medical Expenses, Cost of Prison Systems.
- New York Counties, Corizon Reach $1.85 Million Settlement in Detainee’s Death, Feb. 8, 2017. Corizon, Misconduct/Corruption, Contractor Misconduct, Medical Misconduct, Medical, Medication, Systemic Medical Neglect, Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Private Contractors, Medical Expenses, Misdiagnosis, Failure to Treat, Immigration, Failure to Protect (Wrongful Death), Medical Neglect/Malpractice.