Legislative Committee Votes for Review of Prison Health Care

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
February 28, 2014 12:00 am


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Concerns Raised by Advocates Warrant Further Investigation

February 28, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

Augusta, Maine – The Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee today unanimously agreed that concerns over health care in Maine’s prison system warrant further investigation. The decision came in response to a letter from the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition (MPAC), ACLU of Maine, NAACP Portland Branch and Maine Council of Churches detailing hundreds of serious complaints received from prisoners since 2012.

“Health care in the correctional setting is extremely vulnerable to cost-cutting measures, and prisoners have few avenues to speak up for themselves if they aren’t receiving adequate care. When it comes to prison health care, oversight is essential,” said Grainne Dunne, justice organizer at the ACLU of Maine. “We applaud the Oversight Committee for taking swift action to address the real and serious concerns that exist over the quality and availability of medical care in Maine’s prisons, before it’s too late.”

OPEGA previously undertook a review of health care services in state correctional facilities in 2011 that revealed numerous issues with the quality of care offered by the private health care company Corizon. Following the release of that report, the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) terminated their contract with Corizon. In 2012 MDOC contracted with another for-profit health care company, Correct Care Solutions (CCS). While CCS has been open to increased transparency and dialog with prisoners’ advocates, several concerns remain and have gone unaddressed by MDOC despite requests from advocacy groups.

“MPAC members, inside and outside of Maine’s prisons, have long recognized the need for objective scrutiny of our prisoners’ healthcare,” said Steve Lewicki, MPAC Coordinator. “We commend the Oversight Committee for recognizing the urgency of this matter.”

After hearing from representatives of the ACLU and MPAC, as well as MDOC, today, the committee voted to request a formal review of a sample of prisoner complaints by the Office of Program Evaluation and Accountability (OPEGA), and to inform the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee about the issues raised by the advocates. The committee requested additional documentation from the MDOC related to the availability of medication, tracking of medication and transfer of medical files and information between facilities.

“Today was both a significant step toward ensuring the quality and standards of prisoner health care and an affirmation that committee members understand their role in guaranteeing the constitutional right to medical care for prisoners,” said Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the NAACP Portland branch. “It was powerful to hear members of the committee articulate genuine concern for the well-being of Maine’s most vulnerable.”

The Government Oversight Committee will follow up on this issue at their meeting on March 28.

The full text of the letter, including a catalog of serious medical complaints received by MPAC since 2012, is available online at: www.aclumaine.org/media/785

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