CAN THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS DO BETTER THAN UCONN?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 27, 2018) — The Hartford Courant reported Friday that medical care provided by the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) is under scrutiny by state legislators amid a growing number of wrongful-death lawsuits.
A suit filed in federal court on Thursday alleges that the death of a 19-year-old inmate two months before he was due to be released “contains statements from the correction department’s former medical director that health care behind prison walls was routinely deficient,” The Courant said.
Although the legislative session ended in May, The Courant reported that a public hearing will take place on Monday on the issue of inmate medical care. “Set to testify are officials from UConn Health, the Department of Correction and family members of some of the inmates who died or nearly died from illnesses that were not properly diagnosed and treated,” The Courant wrote.
The University of Connecticut Correctional Managed Health Care unit (UConn Health) was the DOC’s medical provider from 1997 until July 1, 2018 at an annual cost of $140 million. According to the AP, DOC Commissioner Scott Semple indicated that the care inmates will receive going forward will be of better quality.
The Connecticut General Assembly Bulletin for the week of July 30, 2018 begins with what is said to be an “Informational Hearing on UCONN Health” at 10:30 a.m. followed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s scheduled remarks on a lawsuit stemming from the 9/11 attacks at 11:00.
In July 2001, Connecticut’s Office of Protection & Advocacy (OPA) sued the DOC on behalf of six mentally-ill inmates who died while in custody. The lawsuit alleged that the DOC violated OPA’s First Amendment right to review government records concerning the care the deceased inmates did or did not receive.
A 2007 wrongful-death lawsuit against the DOC culminated in the jury acquitting an unspecified number of correction officers of excessive use of force after the inmate allegedly assaulted them.
In late 2015, a mentally-ill inmate won an undisclosed settlement after alleging that “the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) denied him appropriate treatment, transferring him to the Northern Correctional Institution, which lacked treatment facilities for mentally ill prisoners” and approached his documented needs with “deliberate indifference.”
In February of this year, two University of Connecticut Health Center employees were “placed on leave” after it was discovered that an inmate at the women’s facility in East Lyme gave birth to a baby in her cell. From 1997 until this month, UConn was the DOC’s contracted medical provider.
Shortly before the incident, The Courant reported that inmate medical care would be transferred from UConn to the DOC.
The DOC and state auditors have withheld from legislators, the press and the public a physician’s report regarding “the 25 worst medical cases of 2014 and 2015, including eight that involved deaths,” The Courant reported Friday. In early April, the auditors had not yet been provided the report by the DOC.
The Connecticut Mirror wrote in March that three Republican legislators called for “full transparency with respect to the health care in our prison system” amid the announced transfer of medical care from UConn to the DOC and a rising number of lawsuits alleging delayed or denied care.
The report, The Mirror said, cost taxpayers $63,000 but cannot be released publicly because it involves ongoing litigation, according to DOC Commissioner Scott Semple.
The State of Connecticut has 14,000 inmates, The Mirror reported in March, of whom as many as two-thirds may have mental-health needs.