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Medical Neglect Stalks Georgia Prisons

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Can't breathe? Crushing chest pains,... creeping up the side of your neck? See a doctor? In prison? Don't bet on it.

Medical Neglect Stalks Georgia Prisons

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Arnold Porter was serious, and seriously worried. He was dizzy and short of breath, he told Dr. William Sightler, with a crushing, tightening sensation in his chest with pain shooting up once side of his neck. “Maybe I have a clogged artery. This is not my normal health,” he told Dr. Sightler. “Please help. I need something fast done.”

Slow motion heart attacks, in which symptoms leading up to full cardiac arrest build and worsen gradually over weeks or months are quite common. Porter should have been a lucky man, being able to bring his heart attack symptoms into in a physician's office, except for one thing. Porter was a prisoner at Georgia's Wheeler Correctional facility, operated by the notorious Corrections Corporation of America. And William Slighter was their doctor, not his.

According to a complaint filed in US District Court in Dublin Ga, Porter repeatedly and insistently sought medical aid throughout the month of December 2006, informing Dr. Sightler and a prison nurse of his symptoms, and urgently requesting some kind, any kind of diagnostic treatment for his chest pain, shortness of breath, profuse sweating and the other classic markers of cardiac disease. By December 29, the complaint states, Porter's symptoms were well documented in his file, but the first appointment with Dr. Sightler was delayed a full 35 days. It was at this appointment that Porter stated he thought he might have a clogged artery, and asked for help.

Dr. Sightler, Nurse Newcurt, and the prison's Director of Nursing Carolyn White, the complaint alleges, did nothing. Wheeler is a privatized prison, run by a highly profitable corporation. Private prisons, as well as publicly-run prisons with privatized medical care have built-in reasons to skimp on diagnostic testing and all kinds of care. Medical care costs money, and they're in business to make it, not to spend it.

On October 16, 2007 Arnold Porter went into full cardiac arrest. He died. His pulse and breathing stopped, he had to be brought back with a combination of electric shock and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Porter is lucky to be alive today. He's a long way from being well, but has made it far enough back to draft and file his own complaint against CCA, the state of Georgia, and the doctors and nurses who refused to treat him till he reached the point of death.

Porter's sister Vondra told Black Agenda Report that “My brother says 'they've already tried to kill me, I don't know what more they can do.'” So Porter is doing what he can do, acting as a jailhouse lawyer, researching and assisting with the pleas and motions of other prisoners at Coffee Correctional facility, where he is now held.

Some other Georgia prisoners are not so fortunate. Terrance Dean, who was brutally beaten by officials at Macon State Prison in mid-December, around the same time as the visit of a Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners Rights fact-finding team, finally got a visit from his sister on Sunday, January 2.

He's got a long way to go,” said Wendy Johnson of Atlanta. “He's in a wheelchair, his speech is slurred, and he seems to have partial paralysis in his arm and leg on one side. He can't walk without help... he is very fearful...” According to Johnson, the last time he saw his mother in November, he was in normal physical condition with no complaints.

Dean was transferred in apparent secrecy to an Atlanta hospital more than 130 miles away from the prison. His family was not informed at all by state authorities of either his injury or his transfer. They had to find out by other means. And although Johnson spoke to Steve Franklin of CBS Atlanta on Friday, the story appears to have received little or no on-air coverage, and cannot be found on the station's web site.

We're going to do everything we can to find out what happened to Terrance Dean, and everything we can to make sure justice is served,” pledged Rev. Kenny Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society.”

At Smith Prison, where another fact-finding visit occurred, there was at least one incident which may be another case of official retaliation for the prison strike. The wife of another prisoner at that institution spoke to corporate media reporters just before New Years about her husband, whose nose was broken and not reset, and who had other injuries. Again, the story has seen little light, The family has retained an attorney and is looking into its legal options.

The Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner Rights expects to hold a press conference in Atlanta tomorrow at 10:30 in downtown Atlanta. We'll be there.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA. He's also a member of the GA Green Party's state committee.

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Comments

Why doesn't anyone do

Why doesn't anyone do something about this? If they don't have enough staff to take care of the prisoners health, they could always go for nursing practice and get students learn while caring for the prisoners, ignoring their pleas is not the solution.

I think that everyone should

I think that everyone should have medical care no matter what. Even if that man is in prison that doesn't mean he/she is not a man anymore.

Although, some prisoners may be aggresive, being aggresive back isn't the solution because this only increase their hate and when they will come out, they will most probably use that hate to do other crimes.

jocuri cu masini jocuri barbie

Situation is reflected in other states. NYS pen-pal,

who was paroled 6 months ago, told me stories during the ten years we were pen-pals, while he was incarcerated in various NYS prisons.  As a wheelchair user (result of being shot in the back during arrest, but he didn't have a weapon), he was moved from "facility" to "facility" (promise of wheelchair access, which was not fulfilled = no access).  In one prison, during our correspondence, he was moved in a van that did not have any way to keep the wheelchair from rolling when van was in motion.  Yes, he was injured (wrist - and he only had a manual wheelchair, so he had to propel his wheelchair with a hurt wrist).  He took the issue to court and won a settlement. In prep for the case for court, the records indicated that there was deliberate delay in getting medical attention for his injured wrist (several weeks).  The state prefers to settle (or promise "to do better" and specifically, in this instance, to equip the vans with locks for wheelchairs to prevent rolling while the van is in motion) rather than go to court.

Another prison - a men's prison - only had a gynecologist. That's a women's doctor as in women's internal/reproductive organs.  Yes. One can't invent this silliness.  My pen-pal had been told to reuse the tubes (called catheters) needed to remove urine from his bladder.  The package said, "One time use only".  He had to go to court.  He won.  Why not reuse a "one time use"?  Infection. 

Just two stories for now. He was considered "making trouble" by insisting on proper medical care.  (Wheelchair access is a civil right, even for prisoners.  It is separate from health issues but overlaps.  My pen-pal, for instance, had a bed that was iron, attached to the wall with chain, and too short, with a very uncomfortable bar...and required the assist of another prisoner to get in or out of bed, in one prison.)



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