A 2015 lawsuit alleging “grossly deficient” medical care at Louisiana State Penitentiary is heading to trial Tuesday.
Lawyers for the maximum-security inmates say their clients suffered and continue to suffer a drawn-out variety of cruel and unusual punishment. Countless inmates, recounts The Advocate, have been forced to deal with unnecessary pain and suffering, permanent disability and even death.
“The grave systematic deficiencies in the delivery of medical care at Angola lead to appalling outcomes,” said attorney Jeffrey Dubner when the suit was first filed. “Preventable illness, injury and death are not part of a prison sentence, yet Angola officials are pervasively subjecting the men in their custody to these risks.”
Former Louisiana Department of Corrections director Dr. Raman Singh denied the allegations soon after they first arose.
Despite his steadfast denials, Singh admitted that caring for the Angola facility’s 6,000 inmates is challenging. Many of the prisoners are elderly; many others are afflicted by chronic diseases, whether venereal or genetic.
Singh was fired in 2017 after being accused of sexual harassment. But his departure, say prisoners, didn’t change the system’s course.
In fact, the suit said medical care only got worse. According to The Advocate, Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge—which is used to serve prisoners with medical emergencies—temporarily closed while the state reorganized its charity hospitals.
“Prisoners report horror story after horror story: a man denied medical attention four times during a stroke, leaving him blind and paralyzed; a man denied access to a specialist for four years while his throat cancer advanced; a blind man denied even a cane for 16 years,” says the suit.
“In many cases, only the specter of legal action has spurred Defendants to provide long-delayed medical care to Plaintiffs,” it adds.
While a dozen inmates launched the suit against the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, its secretary and Angola wardens, one death stood out in particular.
‘The suit says Angola inmate James Johnson’s March 2015 is a tragic illustration of the “inevitable consequences” of denied care,” reports The Advocate.
Johnson, the paper goes on to state, was treated for multiple myeloma—a malignant tumor afflicting the man’s blood marrow. But in 2012, his treatment ground to a halt. The state said care was too expensive, and that he’d have to cope with less-effective alternatives.
Instead of chemotherapy, Johnson was given steroids that ‘caused his legs to swell and his blood sugar to remain high.’
The cancer predictably progressed, spreading throughout his bones with such severity that he couldn’t even have a fracture set.
Johnson was placed in hospice care in 2014; there, too, he was ignored.
In the months leading up to his deaths, Johnson told attorneys that doctors only made rounds once every month or two.
Dr. Raman maintained throughout his tenure at LSP that the medical care provided to inmates met or exceeded mandatory minimum standards of care.