ACLU Says Failure To Properly Administer Medicines At Wisconsin Prison Puts Women's Lives At Risk

Affiliate: ACLU of Wisconsin
January 23, 2009 12:00 am

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MILWAUKEE – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Jenner & Block today filed a motion in federal court seeking an immediate halt to the dangerously dysfunctional system of ordering and administering medication to prisoners at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution, Wisconsin’s largest women’s prison.

According to the motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, prisoners at Taycheedah in need of medicine for infections, life-threatening chronic diseases, pain and other serious medical conditions are forced to wait weeks on end and, if and when their medications do arrive, they often are the wrong medications in the wrong doses.

“The medication system at Taycheedah is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “For some medications, there is not even a system of checking for dangerous interactions between drugs before a prisoner starts taking a new prescription. The clock is ticking while the state gambles with the health and safety of over 700 women.”

At Taycheedah, medications – including powerful psychiatric medications – are administered to prisoners by correctional officers with no medical training. As a result, prisoners frequently receive medications prescribed for other prisoners and overdoses of their own medications. Expert witnesses for both parties agree that this is a dangerous practice. Taycheedah is one of the few state prisons in the nation that does not require nurses or similarly trained medical personnel to administer prisoners’ medications.

According to the motion, the failure of prison officials at Taycheedah to ensure that prisoners properly receive medication has forced numerous prisoners to endure unnecessary and prolonged illness, injury, pain and hospitalization and all prisoners receiving medications are at a significant risk of harm and even death. The motion charges that prison officials have known for years that prisoners have been at significant risk, but despite knowing ways to reduce that risk have simply failed to take the actions necessary to do so.

“Taycheedah’s medication system causes needless pain and suffering,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director for the ACLU of Wisconsin. “The Constitution prohibits the state from ignoring a substantial threat to the health and safety of the women at Taycheedah.”

The motion was filed as part of a 2006 class-action lawsuit in which Taycheedah prisoners charge that grossly deficient medical and mental health care at Taycheedah endangers the lives of prisoners. The motion asks that state officials be required to ensure that prisoners’ medical prescriptions are filled in a timely and accurate fashion and that medications be distributed and administered by licensed practical nurses.

A copy of the motion is available online at:

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