Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

March 21, 2022

Public Health Committee Holds Public Hearing on Legislation Ensuring Proper Medical Care, Treatment for Correctional Inmates

Legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Anwar

Today, the Public Health Committee held a public hearing on legislation that would require correctional inmates in the state to receive necessary and appropriate health care and mental health services administered by the Department of Correction. This legislation, if approved, would ensure the department provides medical care meeting the needs of incarcerated people, providing additional oversight after reports of inadequate care in recent years.

“We know that for too long, Connecticut has not prioritized the health and well-being of its incarcerated people, leading to significant health issues for many,” said Sen. Anwar. “We owe it to thousands of men and women to provide them with the care they are guaranteed under the Constitution. To do so would not just be a continued injustice, but would further contribute to millions of dollars squandered on lawsuits as a result of that lack of sufficient care.”

Senate Bill 448, “An Act Concerning the Delivery of Health Care and Mental Health Care Services to Inmates of Correctional Institutions,” would ensure that the Department of Correction provide increased medical care to incarcerated people. This involves options including the following: providing at least four mental health care providers with experience in substance use disorder diagnosis and treatment are placed at each correctional institution to provide health care; standards to make sure mental health providers prescribe psychotropic medications in the right circumstances; each inmate would receive an annual physical examination by a physician; inmates can receive HIV tests if desired; and that medical health care providers would monitor inmates for conditions like drug or alcohol withdrawal upon admittance.

Groups testifying in support of this legislation included the Restorative Action Alliance, which said Connecticut’s Department of Corrections, in 2019, reported ratios of just one nurse for every 43 incarcerated people and one doctor for every 579 incarcerated people in the Department of Corrections. “The result has been poor healthcare for the incarcerated population,” said President Jason Wasserman. “Not only does that result in costly lawsuits for the state,” but he argued the lack of adequate care in the state violates several constitutional rights of incarcerated people.

Melinda Johnson, Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy with the YWCA Hartford Region, testified that “due to systemic challenges, quality of care for incarcerated individuals in the State of Connecticut has been subpar,” contributing to poor health outcomes and negligence; but this subpar care has a deeper cost. In working with formerly incarcerated individuals, former and current health care workers and justice advocates in the state, Johnson testified that the legislation should go further to rectify expensive inadequacies within Department of Corrections medical care, including creating a commission to oversee health care in the DOC, higher rates of workers per incarcerated persons and requiring medical discharge plans be created as part of exit interviews for persons returning to civilian life.

Connecticut’s Child Advocate Sarah Healy Eagan testified that the Manson Youth Institution was reported to have sweeping civil rights violations at its facility, including deficient mental health assessment, planning and service. When as many as 58% of incarcerated youth experience suicidal ideation, she continued, that is a significant issue. The National Alliance on Mental Illness testified that “poor health leads to poor mental health,” and treating mental health for incarcerated people can aid them in their lives. The ALCU-CT also testified in favor of the legislation, calling it vital in improving access to quality healthcare for people incarcerated in the state.