ACLU of Wyoming Releases 2012 Prison & Jail Report
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Deficiencies in medical and mental health care continue to top the list of complaints from prisoners in Wyoming, according to the second annual “Incarceration in Wyoming” report released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming.
Compiled from complaints received from prisoners in Wyoming, “Incarceration in Wyoming” provides details about the numbers and nature of complaints the organization received in 2012. Poor medical and mental health care generated thirty percent of complaints from prisons, and well over a quarter of the complaints from jails. “The data continues to demonstrate that medical issues are by far the most problematic for prisoners incarcerated in Wyoming. We are contacted frequently about jails taking people off medically necessary medications with adverse effects,” says Linda Burt, executive director of the ACLU of Wyoming.
Occasionally, people ask why the ACLU does work on behalf of prisoners. About 97% of prisoners will eventually return to our communities, so it is important that we don’t just punish prisoners, but we give them the skills to return to communities in better shape than when they left.
“Our work here in Wyoming has brought about significant improvements in the conditions of confinement in our state,” said Burt. “While the Wyoming Department of Corrections and the vast majority of jail officials are very responsive when we contact them, we continue to receive complaints at a considerable rate, particularly related to inadequate medical and mental health treatment.”
The ACLU has also begun to look at the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners, the practice of confining a prisoner alone in a cell for 22‐24 hours a day with little human contact and severe restrictions on privileges, such as reading material, television, visitation and participation in rehabilitative group activities. There is a popular misconception that solitary is used only for the most violent and dangerous prisoners. In fact, many low‐risk prisoners may be housed in solitary because they have broken minor rules or filed lawsuits. At WDOC institutions, 506 prisoners were held in solitary confinement in the past year, 146 of them diagnosed as mentally ill.
“Corrections officials have an extremely difficult job. They encounter significant challenges, particularly when they’re asked to cut costs as medical and mental health care gets more expensive,” Burt said.
The report includes a directory of all Wyoming Department of Corrections institutions and county jails, along with “Know Your Rights” resource guides. The “Know Your Rights” guides are provided by the Wyoming ACLU to inform prisoners of their constitutional rights based on the nature of their complaint.
“Incarceration in Wyoming” is available online here.
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