The ACLU negotiates a deal that includes better staffing and monitoring of treatment that one doctor called ‘shocking and callous.’
By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times
July 16, 2010
Reporting from Las Vegas —
A Nevada prison’s medical care — once described as displaying a “shocking and callous disregard for human life” — would be upgraded and monitored under a proposed court settlement filed Thursday.
An independent monitor would ensure that the remote maximum-security prison, which houses Nevada’s death row inmates, was dispensing medication and treatment in a timely manner, creating treatment plans for chronically ill inmates and had qualified medical staff available at all times, according to the proposal.
The monitor would inspect the 1,100-inmate Ely State Prison at least four times over two years. Should medical care fall short, the duration of his oversight could be extended, the proposal said.
The agreement, which still requires the approval of federal Judge Larry R. Hicks, was crafted by the ACLU, which represented Ely inmates, and state officials.
The ACLU cited a 2007 report by an Idaho doctor who, after reviewing the medical records of 35 inmates, said the Ely prison’s healthcare system amounted to “the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered.”
At the time, the men’s prison had no staff doctor; the previous one had been a gynecologist. A nurse was fired after complaining about shoddy treatment, which she said led to one inmate dying of gangrene.
Under the proposed agreement, cash-strapped Nevada would also pay $325,000 in attorney fees and any costs of improving the prison’s healthcare.
Lee Rowland of the ACLU said the plan resulted from “extensive cooperation” with the state. Partly based on National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards, it could help patch what she described as a “very broken system.” State officials declined to comment.
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