ACLU Calls On Sheriff Gusman To Improve Medical Intake

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
January 15, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU of Louisiana
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Today the ACLU of Louisiana calls on Sheriff Marlin Gusman to conduct better medical screening in connection with the intake of prisoners, in light of the two deaths that have occurred at Orleans Parish Prison in the past week. “Unfortunately, many people in custody of Orleans Parish Prison have serious health conditions that are untreated,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “This results in deaths that could be prevented with better medical attention.”

OPP internal guidelines call for medical assessment of prisoners who are agitated or who may cause harm to themselves or others. Recent events, such as the deaths of John Sanchez and Cayne Micelli, indicate that medical interventions are not performed when called for. Their deaths make a total of three deaths at Orleans Parish Prison in three months. Compounding the problem is the general lack of health care in New Orleans, where primary care facilities remain shuttered as plans to rebuild Charity Hospital remain on hold. Mental health services remain severely lacking, which leads to a higher rate of homelessness and arrests for minor charges.

“Without adequate health care outside of prison, many people enter the criminal justice system for no reason other than that they are sick,” said Esman. “Once those people are in the custody of the government, the government has a duty to provide adequate care. Two deaths in one week suggest that the care provided is not adequate. Also, if people receive care at intake and in prison, they are less likely to remain incarcerated, and better able to return to society.”

Just last year the National Commission on Correctional Health Care decided that it could not approve accreditation for the jail, finding that medical care at the jail does not meet appropriate standards for a prison. The report noted that the jail did not have sufficient mental health counselors and failed to timely complete initial health examinations.

“A thorough, fair-minded investigation of the causes of these recent deaths is desperately needed.” said Esman “We ask Sheriff Gusman to implement changes to guard against future tragedies.”

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