Deaths at Dawson State Jail Investigated by Dallas News Station

Amongst the major problems with private prisons are misguided attempts to control costs.  The problem with containing expenses is that cutting corners has serious consequences that can compromise public safety and well being.  This recent news report about the Dawson State Jail, (CBS 11, Guards Come Forward in Dawson Jail Investigation, October 8, 2012) makes that clear. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) runs the prison.  

The Dallas News station has covered several deaths that occurred at the prison, including that of Pam Weatherby.  The recent news report cites two guards who believe the deaths could have been prevented.

For-profit prison companies are known to face the challenge of maintaining public safety while cutting costs in the provision of services including health care.  CCA has a pretty bad track record when it comes to in-prison health care that includes:

  • In 2001 a Florida grand jury found that CCA facility staff, including a nurse, “failed to demonstrate adequate health training,” which contributed to the death of an inmate who swallowed several Ecstasy pills; and 
  • Another complaint against CCA’s medical services involved an inmate who died after officials allegedly refused to fill a $35 prescription for his hereditary angioedema.  

An audit of health services at the Dawson State Jail highlights that there are systemic problems in the provision of health services at the prison.  The document assesses compliance with several health metrics including:

  • The prison was found to be only 15% compliant in providing an annual physicalexam to eligible prisoners who are 50-years of age or older;
  • The prison was found to be only 45% compliant in providing annual well-woman exams to eligible prisoners;
  • The prison was found to be only 33% compliant in referring eligble HIV-infected prisoners for specified treatment protocols; and
  • The prison was found to be only 33% in providing the flu vaccine to eligible prisoners.  

In CBS 11’s report, a CCA spokesperson is quick to point out that CCA does not provide medical services, but rather the prison’s healthcare is provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) under contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).  This goes to show that contracting out prison services is a slippery slope that can lead to shifting responsibility and an inability to accept responsibility for poor management practices.

One thing is clear, in spite of any contract, TDCJ is responsible for health services at Dawson State Jail and all of its facilities -- private or not.  The loved ones of those prisoners who have died under circumstances related to their ability to receive adequate healthcare are entitled to answers. We hope that continued news reports will uncover them.

We will keep y’all posted as this story unfolds.  Stay tuned.

 

Comments

Dawson State Jail/Healthcare

If you have a policy, you have to follow it or you're screwed.  That being said, the "physical examination" requirements are really out of step with what is currently recommended in the national medical community.  The "annual physical exam" is widely accepted as a useless exercise--groups as diverse as the American College of Physicians, the Anerican Academy of Family Practice, most private health insurers, and even the Federal government no longer recommend an annual physical examination because they have been found to increase healthcare costs by performing unnecessary tests and treatments, and are not useful in finding previously undetected medical disease.  Annual physical exams need to be eliminated from the prison healthcare route, rather than doubled-down upon.

As for the HIV treatment deficiency, there's no excuse for that. 

Flu shots?  I take one every year--the elderly and chronically ill should have one and I fit into both categories.

In Texas prisons, both private and public, health care policies are out of step with current national practices--mainly because they require that TOO MUCH BE DONE causing the healthcare budget problem to be even worse.  It is a prime example of Defensive Medicine rather than an effort to provide appropriate care.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.