INMATE HEALTH: Female Prisoners Testify on Medical Care
At the first hearing in nearly two decades to take place inside a women's prison, inmates at Valley State Prison, joined by women from Central California Women's Facility, relayed personal experiences of medical problems in an appeal to overhaul the Department of Corrections' medical department, the Fresno Bee reports. Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), who heads the Joint Committee on Prison Construction and Operations, called the hearing so the committee "could hear the stories of the inmates themselves." Residents of Valley State Prison and Central California Women's Facility represent about 60% of California's female inmate population (Davis, Fresno Bee, 10/12). During the seven-hour hearing, women told "graphic and disturbing" stories of "medical neglect, shoddy treatment and sexual abuse." State Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), who attended the hearings with Assembly member Carl Washington (D-Paramount) and Dr. Louis Vismara, cardiologist and consultant to Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), said, "What I heard today curdled my stomach" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12). However, Wright noted that "she should probably only listen to half of the testimony, because of exaggerations." Dr. Susann Steinberg, head of the California Department of Corrections medical department, concurred, saying, "What you're hearing today is not entirely accurate." Steinberg added, "I couldn't sit in the job that I'm sitting in now if I didn't feel that these patients were getting the best care possible." However, Ellen Barry of San Francisco- based Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, defended the inmates, reporting that she hears these stories repeatedly. "When I hear the same thing from 10, 20 or 100 women, we have a clear truth that cannot be controverted by talking heads." A second hearing is scheduled today for a women's prison in Chino (Davis, Fresno Bee, 10/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.