Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

March 29, 2022

The Incarcerated Have a Right to Quality Health Care!

State Senator Saud Anwar, YWCA Hartford Region, Regulate Doc Healthcare CT Coalition, Civil Rights Lawyer Call on the State of Connecticut to Ensure Incarcerated Men and Women Receive Full Medical Care

Today, advocates including State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), Adrienne W. Cochrane, chief executive officer of the YWCA Hartford Region, Diane Lewis, communications director of the Voices of Women of Color, Marisol Garcia, public policy intern with the YWCA Hartford Region and civil rights attorney Ken Krayeske stood in Hartford to advocate for incarcerated men and women in Connecticut to receive full medical care. Connecticut is currently the only state where the Department of Corrections oversees and operates its own inmate health care system, Johnson said. The corresponding lack of oversight has led to significant gaps in care and repeated instances of negligence and harm that not only leave lasting damage for individuals’ care, but has cost the state millions of dollars in lawsuits.

They were joined by members of the Regulate DOC Health Care Coalition including representatives from Voices of Women of Color, Women Against Mass Incarceration, ACLU Connecticut, Hartford Health Initiative, the Urban League of Greater Hartford, the Katal Center, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Pro-Choice Connecticut, Her Time, Connecticut Black Women, SEIU 1199, Stop Solitary CT and the UConn Dodd Center for Human Rights.

Senate Bill 448, “An Act Concerning The Delivery of Health Care and Mental Health Care Services To Inmates of Correctional Institutions,” seeks to address that issue. The legislation would require the department of correction to increase the number of care providers for inmates for mental and physical health, ensure incarcerated persons receive physical examinations and proper care, better treat mental health and substance use disorder concerns and establish an advisory committee for the purpose of advising use of health care services in the Department of Corrections and evaluate whether the Department of Public Health should have oversight over provision of such services.

In 2016, the Department of Corrections flagged 25 prisoner medical cases that went wrong, including the deaths of eight prisoners, according to the Hartford Courant, with many of those cases leading to lawsuits that have cost the state millions. In March 2019, the Office of Fiscal Analysis reported the Department of Corrections had just one nurse on staff for every 43 prisoners and one doctor or physician assistant on staff for every 579 prisoners, rates indicating inadequate health care.

“Incarceration is not a death sentence, but in our state, it has become a death sentence for too many,” said Sen. Anwar. “We as a state have a responsibility to fix this. Karon Nealy died of complications from lupus. Wayne World died after his skin cancer was not diagnosed while he was incarcerated. There are too many stories of families with members whose sentences became much bigger than intended and we cannot let the status quo continue. We need to make sure the individuals who are incarcerated are treated like humans and we take care of their physical and mental health. On top of the moral argument, there is the financial one too. We are paying no matter what – we should do it upfront at a lower cost rather than have a bad outcome that not only harms others but costs the state through lawsuits. When anyone provides care and they are not being evaluated, they are not going to do as well. In this situation, we need a coalition of people to watch over what is being provided. This bill does that.”

“This is about dignity, rights and justice,” said Cochrane. “I have never seen a sentencing that said ‘we will withhold adequate health care,’ but some actions of which we are aware – giving birth to a child on a toilet, treating lupus with Motrin – these are stories coming out of prison. What about the stories we never hear about? This is not about what’s popular, what is the case du jour, but what is right? Passing Senate Bill 448 is the right thing to do.”

“I am a mother of a formerly incarcerated son,” said Lewis. “Mass incarceration is a health issue and Connecticut is the only state that owns and operates its own inmate health care system. Just like any other entity that oversees itself, it undermines public trust. Developing a trusting relationship can be very challenging when the entity that has taken away your freedom is the same entity that is responsible for all your health care needs. As the COVID-19 outbreak proved, incarcerated individuals have more health needs than the general community because they are cramped in overcrowded facilities, which is a health risk itself, not only for the incarcerated individuals but prison staff and the communities they will return to. Any untreated health conditions will be coming home with individuals to their communities, mostly low-income communities of color already underserved and often lacking health care resources. The correctional system is mostly concerned with punishment and public safety while the health care focus is improving health and building trust between an individual and a health care provider. They are not the same.”

“I am a formerly justice-impacted woman. I worked as a correctional hospice worker within the women’s prison at York Correctional Institution. Upon my release, I was given a relatively clean bill of health with my bloodwork showing a Vitamin D deficiency. I was one of the lucky ones where I was able to walk away from my experience with my health intact,” said Garcia. “However, I have a friend who still resides at the prison who is being directly impacted by the subpar care at the correctional facilities. Due to the advancing age and a medical condition that steadily worsened as she aged in prison, she is no longer able to walk beyond minor steps with assistance. When she arrived at the facility, she was able to walk with the aid of a cane and walker. Now she is completely bedridden. Due to staffing shortages, she does not receive the intended 1:1 care that her condition requires. She has fallen multiple times, sustaining a broken hip and left to reside in wet linens for hours at a time. Regardless of the crime committed, no one should be left to suffer the indignity and inhumanity of subpar care and negligence this shows. Everyone should contact their Senator in support of Senate Bill 448. My friend’s quality of life – better still – her life depends on better care. They are not just names or statistics – they are human beings.”

“Litigation alone does not take care of this problem,” said Krayeske. “We need legislation to oversee the Connecticut Department of Transportation. It is torture, what happens behind those walls. Senator Anwar suggested there are stories we don’t hear. I get the calls every day. I get them all the time. I’m here for Tianna Laboy, who gave birth on a Department of Corrections toilet. The Attorney General’s office asked her if she could have given birth on the bed instead. She hasn’t received mental health care despite the fact that the Connecticut Department of Corrections added to the trauma she has experienced during her incarceration. I’m here for Desiree Diaz, who wasn’t in for more than 24 hours when she was detoxing. When they found her in the morning, she was rigor mortis. She wasn’t convicted of a crime but received a death sentence. I’m here for Cara Tangreti, who was repeatedly raped by multiple Department of Corrections officers while she was at York. Her lawsuit against the Department of Correction was thrown out. She suffered multiple sexual assaults, received no mental health care help, and she won’t get any recovery – and no one has lost their job except those corrections officers. There’s no accountability whatsoever in this system. I stand for Senate Bill 448 because we need legislative oversight of executive branch police power abuses.”