Your children and friends are dying in prison–here’s why

Here’s the threat: AB 1539 defines permanent incapacitation, which is the logical first step in compassionate release procedure. If this is diluted down, which appears to be what is happening, virtually no inmate will be able to meet the standard for compassionate release. AB. 1393, was to have put teeth into requests for disclosure of public records, has been gutted by eliminating the order for punitive damages for any agency which refuses to cooperate with lawful requests for records,

If there is—literally—no way out, then the seriously ill inmates are boxed in between being kept in prison, on one side, and being denied appropriate medical care, on the other. You have to push back on two fronts: first, the demand for the humane alternative of release of terminally incapacitated, and second, the demand for the needed care for everyone, especially those who are seriously ill.

In order to help you with the medical end of this dilemma, let me tell you why any hope of improving the medical care of the seriously ill is in such a mess as matters now stand.

Here are my credentials: I started out as a contractor, a staff physician at

Pelican

Bay. I went to

Salinas

Valley, where I was subsequently appointed the acting Chief Physician and Surgeon at Salinas Valley State Prison. From there, I was transferred to the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran as the acting Chief Medical Officer. From there, I then transferred to Corcoran-1 and asked by the then-Chief

Medical Officer Dr.

John

Klarich to be the Chief Physician. When I complained about an anti-Semitic death threat, on paper and as defined by a yard captain, my appointment to the chief physician job was cancelled.

Dr.

Klarich told me this to my face. I have won round one of an action against the Department, and now am waiting on the result of an appellate hearing, which of course the department insisted on.

You see—that was my crime: trying to help inmates.

Let me fill out your picture of what really happens in the medical department.

I ran into brick walls everywhere I went. I worked 14-hour days at SATF, arriving early and not leaving until the restaurants in town closed. I spent hours each night speaking with distressed relatives, and doing whatever I could to make life more bearable for these unfortunate men. I kept detailed files on my computer so that I could have the information at my fingertips should any attorney called—and call they did. They deeply appreciated my help. I even got compliments from the prison law office, and they were upset when I was transferred.

You would think that all this would be appreciated and encouraged. You would think so—but you would be wrong. The California Department of Corrections doesn’t want to help their doctors give quality care.

I cannot count the number of times our requests for consults, requests for outside assistance, requests for equipment were ignored, even laughed at. Our orders were ignored. Some Correctional officers would just ignore appointments with us and with outside consultants. Officers would routinely throw out appliances desperately needed by inmates, when they transferred to other facilities. Orders for important treatments were ignored, and many cases just cancelled.

Here’s what happens to doctors: I’ve never been sued in 43 years of practice. I actually saw a Chief Physician, without my knowledge or permission, take over the care of my patient, changing my orders three times, and then when he realized I was right and he was wrong, changed the orders—again, and then, based upon his care, turned around and reported me to the medical board for what he had done. Go figure.

A word about the cops; A wise man once said, “stuff rolls downhill.” I don’t excuse any form of wrongdoing; but even so, keep in mind that, like the rest of us, the cops are subject to enormous peer pressure and pressure from those in charge. That’s no excuse, but don’t think for one moment that these guys are all acting on their own. The one who sets the tone and the way things are done is the warden; and he is totally responsible for everything that happens in that institution—and I mean, everything, including death threats.

We filed petitions. We met with officials—all resulting in nothing. I wrote letters to

Judge

Henderson, to the Receiver,

Robert

Sillen. I got nowhere. We got nowhere.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not sticking up for bad care; but I want you to understand what that “bad care” actually means.

You are all good people. You are not responsible for the mistakes made by your children and loved ones. You don’t–and your loved ones in prison don’t–deserve the kind of care they’re getting. Animals get better care. At least my cat did.

Suppose that your kids don’t cooperate. Now on top of that, just suppose the police, the fire department, Amtrac and the grocery stores all decided not to help you to take care of your family. Where would you be? I’ll tell you where you’d be—you would be held responsible anyway.

That’s the way it’s done: The administration would pit the doctors against pharmacists, against nurses, against the MTA’s, and against you. The real culprits are the medical administration, and ultimately the administration of the California Department of Corrections. They want you to fight—with the doctors and with anyone else so that they can hide, as they always do.

You want proof? What has happened since Sillen has taken over? Have things gotten better? No. They are worse. No doctors want to work in the Department when they become aware of what happens to doctors who try to do their job. Doctors are fleeing the department like rats from a sinking ship. Prisoners are dying off right and left, and others were planned for transfer out to other states, in blatant violation of existing rules. Recently,

Judge

Ohanesian ruled this is illegal. MTA’s were trashed—probably the biggest mistake made to date. The nurses hired in their place won’t put up with the same garbage, and they are more organized than doctors or MTA’s; and the nurses are pushing back.

I cannot tell you the number of times I promised inmates care, and then later had to explain to them that my hands were tied. Sad part of it all is—they understood it all too well.

There is no accountability. The thing that would change this would be to employ a chain of custody. Let me explain to you what this is:

Law enforcement agencies use this procedure to document what they have done, so that if and when charges are brought—either by law enforcement or by defendants—everyone’s responsibility is an open book. Each time someone is responsible for some step in the chain, he or she is required to document that they have completed their part, within the time expected, that they have signed it off to the next person, who now is responsible. .

We all know this. We see this everywhere: When kids receive report cards, they are obligated to bring it to their parents who, in turn, sign it and so show that they are aware. This is in turn returned to the teacher.

Many jobs require that you sign in and sign out. That’s a simple chain, documenting that you were there and can be held accountable for what happened at work.

When a doctor writes an order, it should be clearly defined who is next in line, in the chain of responsibility. The order goes to a Chief Physician. As matters now stand, this person can simply decide he doesn’t agree, and scribble a hasty note and sends it back to the doctor, leaving the doctor stuck with the consequences, which means the patient is stuck.

If an official receives an order, he should be obligated to fulfill it as ordered or to suggest an alternative. He should be obliged to put his decision into writing. Should the doctor disagree, this should go to a subcommittee specifically set up for this purpose, that would decide the matter—and that would hold all parties responsible, including that committee. Should the doctor disagree, his reasons should be listed. If the patient suffers as a consequence, then all those who forced the decision can then be held accountable.

If a patient comes in with an assistive device, like a cane or a wheelchair, this equipment is the responsibility of the Correctional Officer in Receiving, and he should sign off on it, turning it over to the next responsible individual, who, in turn, must sign on and off. If a consult is scheduled, those responsible for the transportation should sign off that they have done what they are supposed to do, such as transporting the patient in a timely manner for an appointment., then either that person or his or her superior—or both—should be held responsible if it is not done. Whoever drops the ball is responsible. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Now follow me here: Can you see that the same standard and technique should and must be applied to those with a public trust? If public records must be available, then those tasked with the responsibility of making them available. And that official responsible to provide it must be compelled to sign off on it. That official has so much time to complete his job. If he doesn’t do his job in the time allotted for it, then he should be held accountable.

If a legislator ignores his responsibility, you good people must force a recall election. It is time that everyone is held responsible for what they do, in a proper manner and in a timely fashion—as defined by law, including you, as citizens. Isn’t that what

Cayenne Bird is telling you?

Remember—the issue is not whether an inmate “deserves” a break. The issue is whether that legislator takes care of his constituents, or whether a correctional officer does his duty —or doesn’t do so. In the absence of these chains of custody—of responsibility—no one can be held responsible. But you already know that.

With this set-up, it is a simple matter to define citizen committees to review these documents. I would suggest a designated Grand Jury formed for just such a purpose. Get together with attorneys you trust. Start with the Prison Law Office, which has been totally discarded by your Receiver,

Robert

Sillen. And stop being in such awe of Sillen. If he doesn’t do his job, you hold him accountable. After all, he goes to the toilet the same way you do.

So what is doing on? Where is all this craziness leading? Let me tell you what I believe is really going on:

In a little publicized meeting,

Governor

Schwartznegger met with officials for Geocorp, which is a “private” (which is to say—“corporate”) correctional organization now about 4 or 5 yeas ago. You heard nothing further.

Do you know what “Geocorp” really is? It was split off and renamed so that it wouldn’t be identified with the parent company—Wackenhut, and by some remarkable coincidence, this occurred shortly before a meeting with the Governor. And do you know who good ol’

George

Wackenhut was? He was a “retired” CIA agent who formed this company. This governor has been cozying up to Geocorp, and then backing off when things are made public.

What is the significance? In my view, the long-range plan is to hand over control of the

California prison system to corporations, thus effectively federalizing California State Corrections. And if

California falls, the other states will fall like dominoes. Remember, these corporations are not limited to state lines.

In such a situation, transferring patients from one corporate hellhole to another will be so simple. It won’t even matter if it is out of state. And as far as the families are concerned, it may as well be on the moon.

Did you know that when an inmate is admitted, a security is issued in his name, and is bought and sold like any other security on the market? It’s a great investment. If a person is sentenced to ten, fifteen or twenty years, it’s almost predictable how much money that will require—feeding, clothing, housing, medical care. That’s because what is called the “time value of money.” Like

Al

Pacino said in “The Godfather,” “it’s nothing personal, Sonny; it’s just business.” Follow the money.

Even so, for you dear loved ones, right now, there is only one issue: documentation, specific and time-sensitive, and disclosure, so as to hold your elected officials and your appointed Correctional officials responsible.

And if someone in the legislature says that that’s not realistic, you tell him or her that human life is time sensitive—and so is your patience.

Thank you and God Bless.

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