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Dublin: Inmates allowed to challenge inadequate medical care at Santa Rita Jail

In refusing to toss lawsuit, judge says plaintiffs 'adequately alleged a policy of financial incentives ... in deliberate indifference to prisoners' serious medical needs'

A federal magistrate judge in San Francisco refused last week to dismiss inmate claims that medical care at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin is so inadequate that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Alameda County seal.

The ruling came in a civil rights lawsuit originally filed in 2019 after a hunger strike and work stoppage by several hundred inmates protested unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care at the jail.

The suit was styled as a class action of current and former inmates at Santa Rita and challenged 20 conditions of confinement as violations of the inmates' civil rights under a number of constitutional provisions, including the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and the 14th Amendment (denial of due process).

The defendants included Alameda County, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and a number of jail officers.

In addition, plaintiffs sued Aramark Correctional Services LLC, a private company that provides food services at the prison, and Wellpath Management Inc., a for-profit health care company that provides medical care to the inmates.

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Santa Rita Jail in Dublin is a medium-security facility serving greater Alameda County. According to the complaint, Santa Rita is the largest county jail in the Bay Area.

As of March 27, the jail population was 2,583, of which 2,324 were male and 224 female, according to Inmate 101, an informational website operated by a consulting group for inmates and families.

As a county jail, a major function of Santa Rita is to detain individuals who have been refused pre-trial release or have been unable to make bail. Some 85% of the jail population are pre-trial detainees.

Through a series of motions to dismiss the lawsuit, the defendants have been successful in whittling down the claims in the case, as the court struck allegations and theories that did not meet federal standards.

In March of this year, the plaintiffs filed their fourth amended complaint. That complaint -- now down to seven claims -- portrayed the jail's operation as driven by financial policies designed to denigrate inmates and deprive them of adequate food, sanitation and medical care.

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The complaint describes the jail as being run in accordance with a policy of "fiscal tightfisted, penny pinching control of prisoner services, resulting in limited and reduced prisoner services."

The plaintiffs contended that the jail is run by guards and officers being paid excessive compensation, even as funds spent on services and care at the jail have decreased.

The complaint states that "being a jail guard at SRJ is one of -- if not the most -- remunerative jobs in the entire county that a high school graduate with no college education can get. Starting jail guards make approximately $100,000 per year in salary and benefits."

The complaint's focus on financial policy is consistent with the plaintiffs' challenge to their conditions of confinement under the federal civil rights laws.

In order to obtain relief against local governmental entities like Alameda County, plaintiffs must show more than one-time incidents. They must establish that there is a specific policy or practice put in place by the government -- or allowed by the government to continue after learning about it -- that results in depriving a person of their constitutional rights.

Central to the policy argument are the complaint's allegations concerning Wellpath, a Delaware corporation formerly known as California Forensic Medical Corporation.

The complaint says that Wellpath is the nation's largest for-profit provider of health care services to correctional facilities, and it has "a pattern and practice of providing inadequate medical care by denying or unreasonably delaying medical care, reducing or denying medication and refusing to provide medical devices."

The plaintiffs allege that Wellpath has a contract with the sheriff to provide "all healthcare services of any type needed by any prisoner at the jail," including "medical, dental, prenatal and opioid treatment services."

The contract allegedly gives Wellpath sole authority to determine "the necessity and appropriateness of inpatient hospital care and other outside medical services."

The contract makes Wellpath "solely responsible for all costs incurred in connection with any health care services provided to prisoners inside and outside the jail" and pays the company "a set price based on average daily prisoner population."

The plaintiffs contend that this structure gives Wellpath an economic incentive to provide inadequate care and withhold needed medical services. Because it is paid a fixed price and must fund all health care costs, Wellpath allegedly withholds needed care on a routine basis.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found that the "plaintiffs have adequately alleged a policy of financial incentives to reduce costs of medical care in deliberate indifference to prisoners' serious medical needs."

Moreover, the plaintiffs provided concrete examples of how that policy resulted in deprivations of their constitutional rights.

The judge noted that the plaintiffs set forth numerous examples of inadequate care, including inmates being forced to share (pre-COVID) asthma inhalers, or (post-COVID) having their own inhaler but only being allowed to use it once a day at a prescribed time regardless of when it was needed.

The plaintiffs alleged that one inmate repeatedly asked to see an eye doctor but was denied because Wellpath did not have a staff ophthalmologist and would have had to pay for an exam as an out-of-pocket expense.

Another inmate with a diagnosis of cervical cancer allegedly was not able to get an evaluation until her lawyer got a court order compelling it.

The judge concluded that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged that Santa Rita prisoners are regularly denied necessary and appropriate outside medical care because the contract provides that the cost of such care comes out of Wellpath's profits.

The judge therefore denied the motion to dismiss the medical care counts of the complaint against the municipal defendants.

She set a case management conference for July 29 to discuss the next steps in the litigation.

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Dublin: Inmates allowed to challenge inadequate medical care at Santa Rita Jail

In refusing to toss lawsuit, judge says plaintiffs 'adequately alleged a policy of financial incentives ... in deliberate indifference to prisoners' serious medical needs'

by /

Uploaded: Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 1:57 pm

A federal magistrate judge in San Francisco refused last week to dismiss inmate claims that medical care at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin is so inadequate that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling came in a civil rights lawsuit originally filed in 2019 after a hunger strike and work stoppage by several hundred inmates protested unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care at the jail.

The suit was styled as a class action of current and former inmates at Santa Rita and challenged 20 conditions of confinement as violations of the inmates' civil rights under a number of constitutional provisions, including the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and the 14th Amendment (denial of due process).

The defendants included Alameda County, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and a number of jail officers.

In addition, plaintiffs sued Aramark Correctional Services LLC, a private company that provides food services at the prison, and Wellpath Management Inc., a for-profit health care company that provides medical care to the inmates.

Santa Rita Jail in Dublin is a medium-security facility serving greater Alameda County. According to the complaint, Santa Rita is the largest county jail in the Bay Area.

As of March 27, the jail population was 2,583, of which 2,324 were male and 224 female, according to Inmate 101, an informational website operated by a consulting group for inmates and families.

As a county jail, a major function of Santa Rita is to detain individuals who have been refused pre-trial release or have been unable to make bail. Some 85% of the jail population are pre-trial detainees.

Through a series of motions to dismiss the lawsuit, the defendants have been successful in whittling down the claims in the case, as the court struck allegations and theories that did not meet federal standards.

In March of this year, the plaintiffs filed their fourth amended complaint. That complaint -- now down to seven claims -- portrayed the jail's operation as driven by financial policies designed to denigrate inmates and deprive them of adequate food, sanitation and medical care.

The complaint describes the jail as being run in accordance with a policy of "fiscal tightfisted, penny pinching control of prisoner services, resulting in limited and reduced prisoner services."

The plaintiffs contended that the jail is run by guards and officers being paid excessive compensation, even as funds spent on services and care at the jail have decreased.

The complaint states that "being a jail guard at SRJ is one of -- if not the most -- remunerative jobs in the entire county that a high school graduate with no college education can get. Starting jail guards make approximately $100,000 per year in salary and benefits."

The complaint's focus on financial policy is consistent with the plaintiffs' challenge to their conditions of confinement under the federal civil rights laws.

In order to obtain relief against local governmental entities like Alameda County, plaintiffs must show more than one-time incidents. They must establish that there is a specific policy or practice put in place by the government -- or allowed by the government to continue after learning about it -- that results in depriving a person of their constitutional rights.

Central to the policy argument are the complaint's allegations concerning Wellpath, a Delaware corporation formerly known as California Forensic Medical Corporation.

The complaint says that Wellpath is the nation's largest for-profit provider of health care services to correctional facilities, and it has "a pattern and practice of providing inadequate medical care by denying or unreasonably delaying medical care, reducing or denying medication and refusing to provide medical devices."

The plaintiffs allege that Wellpath has a contract with the sheriff to provide "all healthcare services of any type needed by any prisoner at the jail," including "medical, dental, prenatal and opioid treatment services."

The contract allegedly gives Wellpath sole authority to determine "the necessity and appropriateness of inpatient hospital care and other outside medical services."

The contract makes Wellpath "solely responsible for all costs incurred in connection with any health care services provided to prisoners inside and outside the jail" and pays the company "a set price based on average daily prisoner population."

The plaintiffs contend that this structure gives Wellpath an economic incentive to provide inadequate care and withhold needed medical services. Because it is paid a fixed price and must fund all health care costs, Wellpath allegedly withholds needed care on a routine basis.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found that the "plaintiffs have adequately alleged a policy of financial incentives to reduce costs of medical care in deliberate indifference to prisoners' serious medical needs."

Moreover, the plaintiffs provided concrete examples of how that policy resulted in deprivations of their constitutional rights.

The judge noted that the plaintiffs set forth numerous examples of inadequate care, including inmates being forced to share (pre-COVID) asthma inhalers, or (post-COVID) having their own inhaler but only being allowed to use it once a day at a prescribed time regardless of when it was needed.

The plaintiffs alleged that one inmate repeatedly asked to see an eye doctor but was denied because Wellpath did not have a staff ophthalmologist and would have had to pay for an exam as an out-of-pocket expense.

Another inmate with a diagnosis of cervical cancer allegedly was not able to get an evaluation until her lawyer got a court order compelling it.

The judge concluded that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged that Santa Rita prisoners are regularly denied necessary and appropriate outside medical care because the contract provides that the cost of such care comes out of Wellpath's profits.

The judge therefore denied the motion to dismiss the medical care counts of the complaint against the municipal defendants.

She set a case management conference for July 29 to discuss the next steps in the litigation.

Comments

C_Marie
Registered user
Dublin
on Jul 25, 2021 at 10:21 pm
C_Marie, Dublin
Registered user
on Jul 25, 2021 at 10:21 pm

Santa Rita Jail Imates Recieving Inadequate care!

As one is in a cell currently awaiting next court date for the allegations at hand. He has informed staff and medical that he has a serious condition. Hyperthyroidism/Enlarged heart. A condition where he has to be monitored regularly esspecailly when not recieving any medication for his condition let alone hasnt even been evaluated or acknowleged by the Santa Rita Jail medical staff after him supplying medical
Forms. I mind you it has been 14 days! Being concerned as I am, Who can actual
fail to notice that this is a pure case of medical neglect. When dealing with law enforcement and Jails or Jail staff how do U address issues like this? Not only are serious medical conditions being neglected. Eighth amendment to the united states constitution states “Cruel and Unusual punishment” Inmates are being deprived of food, sanitation, and proper medical care! Deputys are inconsistent with allowing inmates to take routine showers- However, they still manage to put it in “the log” that they do.
Every 4 days is not a healthy routine when your already placed in a unsanitary-vent filled with funk, somehow dusty concrete cube already. I understand wellpath (SRJ Medical staff) whom the jail is contracted with is failing to do their job without empathy and passion like you would assume anyone whos in the medical field to be. If anything happens to my spouse while being untreated for his medical
Condition when they are completely aware of it not only from his paper medical forms hand given during intake but as well as medical forms submitted on the tablet he’s given daily just recently of course, also my phone calls to the jail voicing my concerns then being hung up on by staff.

Guilty until proven innocent?
Or
Innocent until proven guilty?
Either way no life should be treated without treatment esspecially when its a serious condition and could possibly not being a life anymore. Who are these people!?! Help!


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