Poor healthcare in Alabama prisons
contributed to deaths -report
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[June 11, 2014]
By Jonathan Kaminsky
(Reuters) - Severe understaffing in
Alabama's prisons has contributed to at least three inmate deaths this
year and has led to inadequate medical care, amounting to cruel and
unusual punishment, two civil rights groups said in a report released on
In some cases, inmates were unwittingly placed under "do not
resuscitate" orders, said the report, which was co-authored by the
Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy
Program. (Report: http://r.reuters.com/dek99v)
Diabetic inmates sometimes waited months before having their blood
sugar levels taken, resulting, in some cases, in inmates having
their toes and feet amputated as a result of inadequate care, it
The report, which was based in part on more than 100 prisoner
interviews and a review of medical records, concluded the problems
stem primarily from severe understaffing and efforts to cut costs
when awarding medical services contracts.
The state employs 15.2 doctors - based on full and part-time workers
- to care for over 25,000 inmates, the report said.
"Whenever Alabama determines a person must be incarcerated, it must
accept the legal – and moral – responsibility that comes from
imprisoning a human being,” said Maria Morris, an attorney with the
Southern Poverty Law Center and the report’s lead author.
Also on Tuesday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced plans to
convene a study to recommend ways to increase public safety and
reduce overcrowding in the state's prisons, which he said houses
inmates more cheaply than any other in the United States.
A spokeswoman for Bentley said the announcement was unrelated to the
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Bentley said in a statement that he had not yet read the report but
is committed to improving overall conditions in the state's prisons,
including easing overcrowding, in a cost-effective manner.
"We are making fundamental and significant changes to our prison
system, and I am committed to continue those efforts,” Bentley said.
The report found that one inmate died in January after not receiving
follow-up tests when initial ones indicated his prostate cancer had
A second patient died that same month after his heart stopped while
he was undergoing dialysis and with no one present to use the
emergency medical equipment at hand, the report said.
A third inmate died in May when he was kept writhing in the
infirmary for two days after a bad reaction of unknown origin,
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Edith
Honan and Lisa Shumaker)
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