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Inadequate medical care contributed to Louisiana inmate injuries, deaths, judge finds



MONROE, La. – Inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) in Angola have suffered needless injuries and deaths as a result of unconstitutional, inadequate medical care, a federal judge said in an opinion in a class-action lawsuit.

Judge Shelly Dick of the Middle District of Louisiana concluded that “overwhelming deficiencies” in the management of health care services at the prison were behind the constitutional violations. The litigation was filed by groups including the Promise of Justice Initiative and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.

“Generally, the court concludes that LSP lacks the infrastructure necessary to provide a constitutionally adequate health care system for patients with serious medical needs,” Dick wrote in the March 31 decision. “This includes lack of adequate organizational structure, credentialing and peer review processes, health care policies and procedures, clinic space and a quality-control program.”

A spokesman for the Louisiana prison system declined to respond to specific details in the opinion.

“The department is reviewing the court’s 120-page ruling and reserves comment at this time,” Ken Pastorick of the Department of Public Safety & Corrections told the Louisiana Record in an email.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 6,000 inmates in 2015. The complaint alleged violations of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, and the court concluded the charges were accurate.

Mercedes Montagnes, the Promise for Justice executive director and a co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said the ruling supports the contention that medical care has been subpar and that inmates with disabilities were unlawfully discriminated against.

“Going forward, prison officials will have to start fulfilling their constitutional obligation to provide adequate medical care and disability accommodations to everyone incarcerated there, no matter how young or old, healthy or sick,” Montagnes said in a statement provided to the Record.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said the court’s ruling is especially significant because Louisiana’s rate of inmate deaths is the highest in the nation.