By Alfred King, Journalism Guild Writer
America’s current healthcare system makes things worse for many of those who are incarcerated in jails and prisons, according to nymag.com.
America’s for-profit healthcare system causes decisions in jails and prisons to be made wholly on the basis of cost, the Oct. 1 article reported. The story highlighted several examples from Alabama.
“Conditions in jails and prisons are torturous; Alabama in particular has drawn national attention for the violence and degradation that mark its correctional facilities,” the story reported.
A ProPublica investigation revealed that in Alabama, sheriffs in at least 15 of its 67 counties issued what is termed a “medical bond” to jail inmates. This allowed them to be released back into the community for needed medical treatment to avoid prisons providing costly medical aid.
Cases going back to 1996 were examined, with the most occurring in 2013. This practice especially prevalent in Alabama’s poor rural counties, where on-site professional medical care is absent, the story said.
One example: Scottie Davis, 38, an inmate at the Lauderdale County Jail, suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, unable to speak, stand or perform daily task. Davis was released from custody on “medical bond” the next day though he could not sign the release form. Davis was then responsible for all his own medical debts.
A judge normally determines when an inmate can be released on bond when he cannot sign the release form, but in Davis’ case it was the sheriff, the story reported.
Michael Tidwell, 42, a diabetic, arrested in 2013 for violating probation, had a blood sugar spike while in custody, when Washington County jail employees did not medicate him properly, the story said.
On his fourth day in jail, Tidwell got worse, began to vomit on and off for the following 48 hours, spending his last two days in custody in and out of consciousness, losing 17 pounds in the process, records show.
Deputies propped him up, placing a pen in his hand to sign a release form, before they transported him to a hospital.
“It’s accomplished what we wanted to accomplish; it’s saved us some money,” Sheriff Rick Singleton of Lauderdale County told ProPublica.