October 15th, 2007 – Human Rights and Public Health – Health Care in Illinois Prisons

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Articles, Prison Reform | 0 comments

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Prepared by Ted Pearson, Co-chair

National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression-Chicago (the “Alliance”)
Presented to the Prison Health Subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Committee on Long
Term Prisoners of the Illinois State Legislature, October 15, 2007

On behalf of my organization and the many people incarcerated in Illinois prisons with whom we are working, I would like to again thank the Committee and all the members of the Illinois Legislature for this opportunity to present preliminary results of our work on problems of health and medical services in Illinois prisons. It is very important that the work of this Committee continues and that it be fully funded. The expose only this past weekend in the Chicago Reader, of an MRSA epidemic in the Cook County Jail, shows how important is correct and adequate medical care in prisons and jails for public health.

Executive Summary

This is a preliminary report on a study spanning years of direct communications with prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections regarding medical care. It examines a self-selected sample of the prisoners. Patterns regarding health care within the system are being documented. Some solutions can be projected.

The study summarizes patient medical charts maintained by the Illinois Department of Corrections with prisoner narratives regarding their medical care.  In 23 per cent of cases the medical records provide prima facia evidence that medical care in the IDOC does not meet generally accepted standards of care.

Certain categories of problems are most often inadequately treated. Hepatitis C and problems of substance abuse are inadequately managed in 64 and 56 per cent of cases reviewed, respectively. A third of cases of high cholesterol are inadequately managed. Other problems are documented in the areas of congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, coronary artery disease, and tinea.

There is often a wide discrepancy between the patient’s account of medical care received and the patient medical chart. One must start from the assumption that unless proven false, the accounts of prisoners and medical workers are both true. This contradiction can only be resolved by independent examination by medical professionals. There may be objective reasons for the disparity relating to failures of communication between patient and medical staff, lack of trust between patients and staff, and problems specific to the prison environment that are not documented in the medical record.