Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Poor Investment

I often gripe about how poor the quality of medical care is at private prisons. These facilities are notoriously understaffed and hired less-qualified individuals than government facilities, which in the medical arena translates to substandard care. What makes this phenomenon even worse is that private prisons often are able to essentially "cherry-pick" their populations per the contracts they sign. What I mean is that private prisons sign contracts to house primarily low- and medium-security level offenders, and often take only younger, healthier prisoners than the average.

State systems tend to have prisoners who are older, who have chronic illnesses, and who generally cost more to house and care for. So I was kind of surprised to learn that a lot of pregnant prisoners from marion County, Indiana were being housed in a private jail. The care at this particular facility was so delporable that one young woman died after suffering an emergency and never receiving medical attention.

Thankfully, this spurred some action from the Marion County Sheriff, the government official technically in charge of the contract with CEC, the company that runs the jail. Sheriff John Layton "pulled all pregnant inmates into the Marion County Jail; increased county supervision and control over Liberty Hall and the privately run Marion County Jail II; and ordered external evaluations of the facilities to be conducted by former sheriffs Frank Anderson and Jack Cottey."

It's a shame that it took the death of a 27-year-old woman to encourage an evaluation of care at the jail. CEC is the same company who runs a jail in Delaware County, PA that has wrongly released at least 6 prisoners over the past year due to poor record-keeping (or so they say).

So for as much as proponents of privatization love the "cost-savings" provided by the industry, in this case, as in many others, those savings come at a very real and often incalculable cost of human suffering.

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