Prisoners are not being mistreated, but some 60 improvements should be made in the medical services provided for inmates at the Utah State Prison, according to an evaluation sought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The 37-page report, which included recommendations ranging from keeping better records to hiring a full-time physician to replace three part-time doctors, was released Wednesday afternoon by the state Corrections Department.The report was a result of a threatened class-action lawsuit by the Utah chapter of the ACLU, which confronted the Corrections Department last February with numerous complaints about the medical care available to inmates.
Hiring Bonnie Norman, a correctional health care consultant based in Los Angeles, to review prison medical services, was accepted at that time by the ACLU asa first step toward bettering conditions.
"At this point, we have no plans to litigate, but that is contingent upon a continued good-faith effort on both sides," ACLU Executive Director Robyn Blumnersaid Wednesday.
The report was made public by the Corrections Department one week after the department officials announced they had received and were reviewing the study butsaid that its contents would remain confidental.
In a statement distributed with copies of the report, Corrections Department Executive Director Gary DeLand said that it was released "to reduce any further confusion which may have been generated through news reports."
The "recent negative publicity has damaged already sagging morale," according to DeLand's statement, and resulted in the resignation of several medical department employees.
DeLand had said in an interview with the Deseret News on Monday that five medical department employees, including the acting director, quit after local news media detailed several past incidents of alleged negligence.
He did not identify the employees but blamed their departure on "bad press" combined with the ability to make more money elsewhere and their apparent dissatisfaction with the way the Corrections Department responded to the media.
One of the employees who is resigning, Lula Barneycastle, said at least threeare leaving or have already left for better-paying jobs. "You would think from what he (DeLand) said, everybody walked out enmasse. That's not what happened," she said.
Acting Medical Director Lloyd Gatherum and his wife, Nadine, a nurse, are leaving for Minnesota, where according to DeLand he will make an additional $15,000.
An unidentified nurse practitioner has already left because his former employer offered him more money to return, Barneycastle said. She said she did not know why another employee, a physician's assistant, was leaving.
Her reason for retiring after 10 years at the prison was frustration at the way the medical department is being portrayed and frustration at the lack of interest DeLand and other officials have shown in it.
"In the 10 years I've been there, I've never seen him out there," Barneycastle said. Any boss, she said, should visit his employees on the job occasionally to hear their concerns. "If you don't go look, how are you going to know?" DeLandhas been executive director of the Corrections Department for about the past four years.
Another medical department employee, who asked not to be identified so as notto put his job in jeopardy, agreed with Barneycastle. "The feeling I get is, they don't want to be bothered with us," he said of DeLand and other top administrators.
The report noted that there is not "the support for the health care program that health care staff would like to see" and suggested that Corrections Department officials may "have not identified inmate health care to be a priority ... (and) may at times support correctional staff philosophies/decisions over those of the health care staff."
Also noted in the report are more than a dozen indications that the medical care provided at the prison has improved during the past two years, including an improvement in the quality of medical department employees.
More help is needed, according to the report, which recommends the addition of seven full-time employees including two nurses, a medical records technican and a janitor to replace inmate help. A part-time pharmacist is also suggested.
Corrections Department officials are reviewing the report and their plan for implementing its recommendations is expected to be completed by the end of the month.