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Sick Georgia Prisoners Forced to Choose Between Treatment and Early Release

As reported by The Appeal on September 25, 2023, a Georgia prisoner with Hepatitis C was forced to pass up placement in a work-release program in order to maintain his medical care, which was not available to him outside of prison. That effectively extended his incarceration another year before he was released in August 2022—unprepared, homeless, and with only $25 in “gate money” provided by the state upon release.

Georgia’s policy governing transfer to work-release in a Transitional Center (TC) leaves some eligible prisoners deciding between the chance it offers for successful reentry into society and their medical treatment. The state’s 12 TCs offer structured environments with employment opportunities, educational programs and life skills development. Participants have an easier time obtaining driver’s licenses, accessing community resources and securing housing before release.

But with just 2,300 beds, and only two centers available to women, the state Department of Corrections (DOC) rations transfers to a TC. DOC says eligibility may be influenced by a prisoner’s disability, though it claims to seek accommodations allowing prisoners with medical needs to participate in work release programs. Medical services, including hormone therapy, are offered at TCs, but the level of care provided varies, meaning some prisoners must complete medical treatment before being considered for TC placement.

The prisoner with Hepatitis C passed up the chance to move to a TC, saying he felt compelled to prioritize his disease treatment, even though canceled appointments and understaffing at his prison meant he didn’t receive it promptly. Another prisoner who is transgender said she met the requirements for TC placement but was twice rejected because DOC refused to allow her to continue regular endocrinology appointments and other gender-affirming care. Still another prisoner with a hernia said he was denied TC placement due to concerns about his physical fitness.

Some reentry services are available in prison, such as assistance obtaining birth certificates and Social Security cards, and DOC claims it has made efforts to improve programs and services. But access to medical care remains a frequent complaint—one driven largely by chronic understaffing that leaves prisoners waiting out long delays in treatment for an escort to medical appointments. As PLN has reported, the state prison system is also the subject of an ongoing federal investigation into its conditions of confinement. [See: PLN, July 2022, p.1.]  


Source: The Appeal

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