A report filed in federal court uncovers sweeping problems at Illinois Department of Corrections facilities impacting the health of prisoners. The report was completed as part of a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of medical care in prisons.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, says overall the experts describe a system that is dysfunctional and inadequate for people it serves.
"There are unqualified and incompetent physicians and nurses," he says. "There's an inadequate level of medical leadership and management and staffing. There's an inadequate lack of sanitary medical facilities and sometimes appropriate medical facilities."
The experts also found "significant lapses in care" in 60 percent of the cases of prisoners who died from nonviolent causes between January 2013 and May 2014. In a statement, IDOC disagreed with a number of the conclusions, and stated, "The investigative team used a broad brush to paint an incomplete picture of the comprehensive medical system in place department-wide based upon a review of only eight of the 25 correctional facilities."
Yohnka says the report's findings speak for themselves, and adds that the team of experts was selected jointly by lawyers for the inmates and IDOC.
"Those complaints just appear now to come from a state agency that doesn't like the result of someone who has looked in on them," says Yohnka. "It's time to acknowledge these problems and begin to really move forward in terms of repair and reform."
IDOC contends its leadership and clinicians within its health-care units are qualified, and states it is taking steps to improve its delivery of medical services including increasing staffing in certain areas, and working to designate appropriate clinical space that is properly equipped and ensures patient privacy.