Are Illinois Prisoners Getting Necessary Healthcare?

It would probably not shock you to hear that prisoners are not always given the same medical benefits as free citizens. But did you know that prisoners in Illinois have died in their cells mere hours after being denied any medical treatment at all? Thanks to recent reporting from WBEZ, information has surfaced about the state of medical care offered in Illinois prisons and it does not look good.

Each year, between 80 and 100 people die in prison—and the average age of those individuals at their time of death is only 57. In one example, on October 2, 2011, Anthony Rechner went to the health clinic at 2am where he waited for an hour and was not seen, only to return to his cell where he died two and a half hours later. The exact cause of his death is not apparent, but what does seem clear is that reasonable effort was not made to help this inmate when he requested medical attention.

The Illinois Department of Corrections added more reason to be skeptical of their practices when they failed to provide timely and complete records of inmate deaths when WBEZ submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the statistics. As a response to this skepticism and concern about the treatment of prisoners, the American Civil Liberties Union is taking part in a federal class action lawsuit over prison healthcare. As part of the suit, an independent doctor has been appointed and given access to inmate medical and death records in order to assess the situation in Illinois. It seems possible (though perhaps not likely) that WBEZ does not have the full picture—that in fact Illinois prisons are doing what they can to provide fair medical treatment to inmates. The pending class action suit will certainly help bring out information needed to paint that picture and make sure medical attention is given where it is needed.

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