A long-running lawsuit against the Idaho State Correctional Institution is receiving a great deal of attention now that inmates are asking a federal judge to penalize the state.
Prisoners allege that facility officials have repeatedly violated the suit's settlement plan and that as a result, inmates are suffering due to decaying health care, amputations, and issues that are even leading to deaths.
Documents filed in federal court by attorney Christopher Pooser show that the state's oldest prison has been exposing inmates to forced amputations over untreated blisters and bedsores that eventually began to rot, the Associated Press reports.
In one case, an inmate with pneumonia was ignored until he developed a flesh-eating infection that caused him to die of sepsis. Another prisoner was forced to clean his own open intestinal wound using only tap water and paper towels.
Other prisoners with serious disabilities were also left unwashed or without exposure to water for long periods of time, and they were only fed sporadically. The facility, which has 1,400 beds, is also being accused of ranking in a higher death rate than both the state and national averages.
According to the documents, while the institution stated it double-checked whether its health care contractor, Corizon, was compliant with Idaho requirements, the facility failed to ensure prisoners were receiving proper care. In order to avoid further legal consequences, inmates claim that officials even falsified documents showing employees were properly trained in suicide prevention.
In light of these reports, prisoners are now asking a federal judge to hold Idaho in contempt of court and to impost over $24 million in fines on the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC). Part of the money could be recovered by retrieving some of what contractor Corizon made while under contract with the institution now under scrutiny. Regardless of how the state agency will find the money to cover the fines, inmates and their attorney say the government should be punished so that prison leaders will have enough incentives to change how things are run.
So far, the AP says that neither the agency nor Corizon have been able to comment on this case as the allegations are before the court, but they have issued statements defending their side of the case.
According to Henry Atencio, the state's corrections director, the agency has made an “all-out effort to bring the 36-year-old [Walter D.] Balla case [Balla v. IDOC] to a successful resolution for all parties,” while Corizon spokeswoman Martha Harbin said that the existence of a lawsuit does not mean there was wrongdoing.
A couple of years ago, all sides agreed to a deal when the state claimed it would make several improvements to health care. But now, Pooser says that the state violated the settlement more than 100 times.
“Since 1985, IDOC has had ample opportunities to achieve compliance,” Pooser wrote, “but has repeatedly squandered those chances.”
It's incredible that facilities in the United States are still resisting reforms that ensure the basic rights of prisoners are being protected. But what's worse is to know that these problems went on for decades, and that even after being pressed to act by a court of law, the agency behind the institution still failed to carry out its side of the deal.