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.

All prison systems should have an independent monitor or ombudsman

This is from a text from the American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Section, in a recommendation to the House of Delegates, concerning effective monitoring of prisons

It was written in 2008, and Nevada Cure thinks that this should be implemented in Nevada and everywhere else.

This type of MONITORING is exactly what is needed in Nevada.  We believe the independent ombudsman would serve this purpose. Please pass the Ombudsman Bill introduced by Senator Segerblom.

Here you can find Minutes of the Advisory Commission on the  Administration of Justice Meeting of May 1st, 2014, in which NV-Cure Director John Witherow explained the need for an Ombudsman to monitor NDOC. 

Alternatively, make NV-CURE an Independent Monitor and give us the power, money and staff that can do the job that needs to be done.  Thank you.
 
KEY REQUIREMENTS FOR THE EFFECTIVE MONITORING
OF CORRECTIONAL AND DETENTION FACILITIES

1. The monitoring entity is independent of the agency operating or utilizing the correctional or detention facility.

2. The monitoring entity is adequately funded and staffed.

3. The head of the monitoring entity is appointed for a fixed term by an elected official, is subject to confirmation by a legislative body, and can be removed only for just cause.

4. Inspection teams have the expertise, training, and requisite number of people to meet the monitoring entity’s purposes.

5. The monitoring entity has the duty to conduct regular inspections of the facility, as well as the authority to examine, and issue reports on, a particular problem at one or more facilities.

6. The monitoring entity is authorized to inspect or examine all aspects of a facility’s operations and conditions including, but not limited to: staff recruitment, training, supervision, and discipline; inmate deaths; medical and mental-health care; use of force; inmate violence; conditions of confinement; inmate disciplinary processes; inmate
grievance processes; substance-abuse treatment; educational, vocational, and other programming; and reentry planning.

7. The monitoring entity uses an array of means to gather and substantiate facts, including observations, interviews, surveys, document and record reviews, video and tape recordings, reports, statistics, and performance-based outcome measures.

8. Facility and other governmental officials are authorized and required to cooperate fully and promptly with the monitoring entity.

9. To the greatest extent possible consistent with the monitoring entity’s purposes, the monitoring entity works collaboratively and constructively with administrators, legislators, and others to improve the facility’s operations and conditions.

10. The monitoring entity has the authority to conduct both scheduled and unannounced inspections of any part or all of the facility at any time. The entity must adopt procedures to ensure that unannounced inspections are conducted in a reasonable manner.

11. The monitoring entity has the authority to obtain and inspect any and all records, including inmate and personnel records, bearing on the facility’s operations or conditions.

12. The monitoring entity has the authority to conduct confidential interviews with any person, including line staff and inmates, concerning the facility’s operations and conditions; to hold public hearings; to subpoena witnesses and documents; and to require that witnesses testify under oath.

13. Procedures are in place to enable facility administrators, line staff, inmates, and others to transmit information confidentially to the monitoring entity about the facility’s operations and conditions.

14. Adequate safeguards are in place to protect individuals who transmit information to the monitoring entity from retaliation and threats of retaliation.

15. Facility administrators are provided the opportunity to review monitoring reports and provide feedback about them to the monitoring entity before their dissemination to the public, but the release of the reports is not subject to approval from outside the monitoring entity.

16. Monitoring reports apply legal requirements, best correctional practices, and other criteria to objectively and accurately review and assess a facility’s policies, procedures, programs, and practices; identify systemic problems and the reasons for them; and proffer
possible solutions to those problems.

17. Subject to reasonable privacy and security requirements as determined by the monitoring entity, the monitoring entity’s reports are public, accessible through the Internet, and distributed to the media, the jurisdiction’s legislative body, and its top elected official.

18. Facility administrators are required to respond publicly to monitoring reports; to develop and implement in a timely fashion action plans to rectify problems identified in those reports; and to inform the public semi-annually of their progress in implementing
these action plans. The jurisdiction vests an administrative entity with the authority to redress noncompliance with these requirements.

19. The monitoring entity continues to assess and report on previously identified problems and the progress made in resolving them until the problems are resolved.

20. The jurisdiction adopts safeguards to ensure that the monitoring entity is meeting its designated purposes, including a requirement that it publish an annual report of its findings and activities that is public, accessible through the Internet, and distributed to the media, the jurisdiction’s legislative body, and its top elected official.

Respectfully submitted,
Stephen J. Saltzburg
Chair, Section of Criminal Justice
August 2008