Is Poor Medical Care Killing Nevada’s Prison Inmates?

This comes from Nevada Public Radio, and was transmitted on tuesday 7/7/15. John Witherow, director of Nevada-Cure, is one of the people who were interviewed.

knpr

Is Poor Medical Care Killing Nevada’s Prison Inmates?

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The number of inmate deaths at Nevada prisons is raising questions.
In Nevada’s state prisons, four inmates die every month, on average.
But in May and June of this year, 12 inmates died. And in the last year, the number who died in Nevada prisons is just under 50.
That compares to an average of 31 deaths per year in Nevada prisons from 2001 to 2012, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Nevada’s prisons aren’t places we hear much about. Media access is severely restricted. Family members don’t always want to talk about a brother or father in prison. And, frankly, many Nevadans don’t care – out of sight, out of mind.
But some states, such as Ohio, are being sued for substandard prison medical care. And it’s no secret that many Nevada inmates die from medical conditions.
Between 2001 and 2012, 80 percent of 379 prison deaths were due to medical problems.
John Witherow knows firsthand how difficult it is to get medical care in Nevada prisons. He spent 26 years in prisons across the state, after being convicted of attempted robbery in Reno. His sentence included a habitual criminal enhancement, which adds years to the sentence of people who have been convicted of another crime.
“Getting medical care within the NDOC is an extremely difficult job,” Witherow told KNPR’s State of Nevada, “The few instances I had with the medical department were terrible.”

Read the rest here.

Interview: Living History: Lessons from “Tough-on-Crime” Failure in America

Federally-funded study shows states’ combined prison costs are up 400 per cent since the 1970s

By: CBC (Canada) The Canadian Press, May 11, 2014

John Witherow tried robbing a jewelry store — and walked away with a treasure-trove of insights into the American justice system.

His star-crossed participation in a stickup attempt in Reno, Nev., earned him 26 years in prison in an era of drastic change in U.S. justice policy, from the rise of the tough-on-crime approach to its more recent fall from favour.

Witherow shared his story during a conference in Washington, where there is bipartisan momentum behind a number of justice reforms designed to reduce prison costs and increase rehabilitation of inmates.

His initial plan, back then, was to tie down a jewelry store owner while one of his accomplices brandished a sawed-off shotgun. As it turned out, the store owner had a gun, too, and the plan went off the rails.

Witherow was eventually tracked down and sent to the slammer. Because of his seven prior convictions, mainly for robberies, he received an especially long sentence for attempted robbery with use of a weapon.


Longer sentences, services chopped.

This was in 1984.

When he arrived in the Nevada prison system, he recalls, prisoners were able to get out early for good behaviour, and some of his fellow inmates were getting college degrees. Witherow himself managed to turn his life around when he got paralegal training.

But he says things changed pretty quickly.

“It was just the start of the maybe-we-should-get-tough-on-crime era,” said Witherow, whose jailhouse training has helped him request pardons, push for better health care, and fight for sentencing reform as head of the Nevada chapter of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, where he’s been involved since his 2010 release.

“It was all about tough on crime but nobody thought, ‘How we gonna pay for it?”‘

Read the rest here.