Prison ‘health care’ system is broken

By Sam Smith

Note: This writer is incarcerated at Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

I feel like in today’s society, where we are all supposed to be more focused and open to new ideas, creativity and innovative expansions within science and medicine, we could and would see that elected officials are not only abandoning us, they are robbing us at the same time. 

They robbed us of our communities when they stole our family and friends away from us. They robbed us of our right to equality and equal protection with these laws that only seem to focus on what they see is a roadblock or what they need removed in order to further the goals and interests of their families and friends.

Their system is broken, in every section of their government, and that’s a fact. There is overwhelming evidence to support that conclusion beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

We’re being treated less than human, trapped behind these walls in these cages called cells, suffering with no voice. Very few staff members are willing to buck the system, acknowledge they can hear our moans and provide the care that we need. But let’s take a quick look at their medical system which the public is paying for.

It’s built as a pay-to-play system where the privatized company comes in with a ‘cost containment’ system. They promise to reduce prisoner transfers to any outside hospitals for actual treatment by 27%, allegedly to save around $140,000 annually. 

This money isn’t given back. There’s no after school programs, there’s no extra funds for school books or lunches. Nothing goes to the taxpayers, and no one’s taxes are being lowered. What these savings really means is that by optimizing the delivery of medical care onsite, prisoners’ medical needs are being ignored. 

The fallout is that state and federal governments will foot the bill if the prisoner makes it out alive, with their mental and physical health worse than it could and would have been if they were never in their custody.

While the company heads give themselves bonuses, prisoner’s like myself are left suffering in pain for days, weeks, months and years. Told to fill out sick call slip after sick call slip, I was given the run around and had to explain the same thing over and over again. There needs to be outside independent oversight on what, when and how, the state’s monies should be spent, there needs to be an audit.

I sat in this institution with a third-degree burn on my lower right leg caused by a defective band aid they gave me to cover up an open wound they were trying to prevent from getting infected.  I sat here for close to 90 days with an open wound which ended up getting infected.

They refused to get me treatment, they refused to cover it up, they refused to acknowledge that I contracted an infection only making matters worse.  Some nurses found a way to get me medication to treat the infection but it was too late. It wouldn’t work so I was taken to an outside hospital where the nurse practitioner refused to sign a no shackle order.  She said, “Take him however you want, I don’t care.” 

Upon arriving at the hospital, I find out that this same person sent me out to check for blood clots, not to address the infection which has my leg looking like a burned balloon. The hospital checks me out and says to the correctional officer: “You can take him back.  There’s nothing wrong with him.”

The correctional officer actually defended me and said no. He then said to the doctor to check him for an infection, which they did. I ended up being hospitalized for 30 days, and told that if I wasn’t admitted I could have died, best case was amputation of my leg.

I tell you this story to show that when a stray animal is found and saved on the street, they receive better care and treatment than any prisoner inside these institutions. They receive a full physical and if any abnormalities are discovered, they are addressed. And they can’t speak for themselves and they’re never ignored. 

We speak and we’re constantly ignored. I can honestly say that nearly every man and woman behind these walls are doomed to lose, not just a piece of their lives, but a piece of their mental and physical health. This is not because of the [medical] cost from natural causes of growing old but because of the cost containment policies that help the rich get richer and their co-defendants get to live comfortably as long as they keep their mouth shut!

As I write this, I learned that Wellpath Founder and CEO Francis (Jerry) Boyle, whose company is tasked with providing health care for over 300,000 prisoners in 40 states, earning $1.6 billion in annual revenue, just pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.  

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