Pike jail neglects inmates’ urgent medical needs, relative says

Milford. The relative of an inmate at the Pike County Correctional Facility said inmates are not separated when they test positive for coronavirus, never see a doctor even for organ failure, and are denied medical records.

09 Dec 2020 | 05:08

Another local resident related to an inmate at the Pike County Correctional Facility has reached out to the Courier to complain about conditions at the jail, in which her relative is not getting urgently needed medical care.

She does not want her name published because of fears for the inmate’s safety. Warden Craig Lowe did not respond to an inquiry from the Courier.

The relative said inmates are housed three to a cell and not separated when one of them tests positive for Covid-19. “Inmates are tested and never given their results,” she told the Courier. “They are not given clean masks and are using the same mask for weeks.”

They are locked in their cells all day together and only get out for a half-hour each day, she said.

Other health issues also go unaddressed, she said. Inmates with diabetes who were on insulin before they were incarcerated and took two types of insulin are now not given the same doses, she said.

“The jail does not have their night time insulin, so they are not given the night time insulin,” she said.

She said her relative has been given incorrect medications, and sometimes doesn’t get medicine at all.

When inmates ask for their medical records, she said, they are told to complete a form and mail it to Prime Medical Care, which is the jail’s contracted medical provider. But she said inmates are denied if they don’t provide all the information requested on the form, even if they leave one trivial box blank. She said she’s tried for months to get her relative’s medical records, even after the inmate had given written consent.

“How can the inmates themselves not get their records or their test results?” she asked.

She said serious conditions like the organ failure that afflicted her relative are left to nurse practitioners. Tests were performed on her relative, she said, but the hospital never informed the inmate about having organ failure. A nurse practitioner told the relative, who has never seen a medical doctor, that the tests were normal.

Getting care is a waiting game. She said inmates suffer while awaiting approvals of their requests, and never see a doctor or nurse on the same day.

Jail food is always cold, never hot, she said. The suffering spreads far beyond the inmates themselves.

“Not only is the person in jail punished, but the entire family is punished,” said the relative. “We only have one income, and the inmate hasn’t worked since the pandemic set in.”

Please see related story, “Pike jail now charges inmates a housing fee,” at pikecountycourier.com.

Prisoners suffer statewide

The Pennsylvania Prison Society said people in prisons are suffering the effects as the state is being hit with a full-blown resurgence of the coronavirus.

“The trend we are seeing in prisons is a direct outcome of increasing community spread of the coronavirus throughout Pennsylvania,” with new infections rising to levels not seen since mid-April, said a statement from the society. “These events make a strong argument for prisons to begin regular testing of staff to stop the virus before it breaches prison walls and has a chance to spread. As studies have shown, outbreaks behind bars can fuel the spread of the virus in the larger community. Prisons can lock down housing blocks and bar social visits, but they can’t cut off the flow of workers from the community who keep them running. Recently, the state began distributing 250,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to counties experiencing the worst rates of infection, and correctional facilities are eligible to receive them. We have not heard yet how prisons plan to use them, but it could be a golden opportunity to implement the weekly staff screening we have advocated for for months.”

Urgent recommendations
The Pennsylvania Prison Society says the recent surge of prison infections is a vital concern for everyone as the state battles a fierce new wave of the pandemic, and calls on all county and state officials to:
Implement weekly, rapid testing of all staff that come into contact with people in custody
Expand and accelerate efforts to safely reduce the number of people in county and state facilities
Require that every county publicly report prison testing results and virus-related deaths in custody
Test and quarantine every new person entering custody
Eliminate the medical co-pay for accessing health care while in custody
If you have questions about COVID-19 in Pennsylvania prisons, email info@prisonsociety.org.
“Not only is the person in jail punished, but the entire family is punished. We only have one income, and the inmate hasn’t worked since the pandemic set in.” Relative of an inmate at the Pike County Correctional Facility