ACLU Says Failure to Properly Administer Medicines at Wisconsin Prison Puts Women’s Lives at Risk

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin, (414) 272-4032, ext. 13; cahmuty@aclu-wi.org

ACLU Says Failure to Properly Administer Medicines at Wisconsin Prison Puts Women’s Lives at Risk

MILWAUKEE - The
American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm
of Jenner & Block today filed a motion in federal court seeking an
immediate halt to the dangerously dysfunctional system of ordering and
administering medication to prisoners at the Taycheedah Correctional
Institution, Wisconsin's largest women's prison.

According to the motion, filed in
the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin,
prisoners at Taycheedah in need of medicine for infections,
life-threatening chronic diseases, pain and other serious medical
conditions are forced to wait weeks on end and, if and when their
medications do arrive, they often are the wrong medications in the
wrong doses. 

"The medication system at Taycheedah
is a disaster waiting to happen," said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney
with the ACLU National Prison Project. "For some medications, there is
not even a system of checking for dangerous interactions between drugs
before a prisoner starts taking a new prescription. The clock is
ticking while the state gambles with the health and safety of over 700
women."

At Taycheedah, medications -
including powerful psychiatric medications - are administered to
prisoners by correctional officers with no medical training. As a
result, prisoners frequently receive medications prescribed for other
prisoners and overdoses of their own medications. Expert witnesses for
both parties agree that this is a dangerous practice.  Taycheedah is
one of the few state prisons in the nation that does not require nurses
or similarly trained medical personnel to administer prisoners'
medications. 

According to the motion, the failure
of prison officials at Taycheedah to ensure that prisoners properly
receive medication has forced numerous prisoners to endure unnecessary
and prolonged illness, injury, pain and hospitalization and all
prisoners receiving medications are at a significant risk of harm and
even death. The motion charges that prison officials have known for
years that prisoners have been at significant risk, but despite knowing
ways to reduce that risk have simply failed to take the actions
necessary to do so.

"Taycheedah's medication system
causes needless pain and suffering," said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director
for the ACLU of Wisconsin. "The Constitution prohibits the state from
ignoring a substantial threat to the health and safety of the women at
Taycheedah."

The motion was filed as part of a
2006 class-action lawsuit in which Taycheedah prisoners charge that
grossly deficient medical and mental health care at Taycheedah
endangers the lives of prisoners. The motion asks that state officials
be required to ensure that prisoners' medical prescriptions are filled
in a timely and accurate fashion and that medications be distributed
and administered by licensed practical nurses.

A copy of the motion is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison/medical/38467lgl20090123.html

Additional information about the ACLU is available online at: www.aclu.org

Additional information about the ACLU of Wisconsin is available online at: www.aclu-wi.org

Additional information about Jenner & Block is available online at: www.jenner.com

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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