Judge Rejects Government Efforts to Block Details of Deficient Medical Care in Wisconsin’s Largest Women’s Prison

Affiliate: ACLU of Wisconsin
March 15, 2007 12:00 am

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Women Prisoners in Wisconsin Are Subjected to Worse Mental Health Care Than Men, According to the ACLU

MILWAUKEE — The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that a federal judge has ruled that claims of grossly deficient medical and mental health care for Wisconsin’s women prisoners must be heard. Judge Rudolph Randa denied efforts by prison officials to dismiss these claims of inadequate health care at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), Wisconsin’s largest women’s prison.

“Prison officials tried to argue that they were not given proper notice of the incredibly poor health care they were providing to Taycheedah prisoners” said Gouri Bhat, a staff attorney for the ACLU National Prison Project, and lead counsel for the women prisoners. “The argument is absurd and the judge rightly rejected it. Prison officials have known for years that the care at TCI is dangerously deficient, but they have done almost nothing to improve it.”

The decision came in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU seeking reforms to the state prison system. Prisoners at Taycheedah Correctional Institution experience long delays before receiving treatment for diagnosed illnesses, according to the ACLU. Prisoners reported to the ACLU that they are subjected to potentially fatal lapses in their medication because it is not renewed on time. Some medical problems are simply ignored. Debbie Ramos, one of the plaintiffs in this case, arrived in custody in 1992 and immediately reported that she had endometriosis —a condition that was diagnosed in 1980. Despite the fact that she reported her condition upon her entrance to the facility, and regularly complained of severe vaginal bleeding, she was not seen by a gynecologist for seven years. When she was finally seen in 1999, she was forced to have a hysterectomy, which might have been avoided had she received medical care sooner.

“Now that the judge has given us the green light, we are anxious to push forward with this case,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, who also represents the women prisoners. “The women at Taycheedah are still enduring horrible medical and mental health care. Some of them have waited years for their claims to be heard.”

According to the ACLU, the health care provided at Taycheedah Correctional Institution meets the standard of cruel and unusual punishment, violating the Eighth Amendment. In addition, women imprisoned at Taycheedah Correctional Institution receive mental health care that is inferior to care received by male prisoners in Wisconsin, which violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

Taycheedah Correctional Institution prisoners are represented by Bhat, Dupuis, David Fathi and lawyers at Jenner and Block in Chicago.

More information on the case is online at: www.aclu.org/prison/women/25405prs20060502.html

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