Download Full Report (Summary Below)
Prepared by Ted Pearson, Co-chair
National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression-Chicago (the “Alliance”)
Presented to the Prison Health Subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Committee on Long
Term Prisoners of the Illinois State Legislature, October 15, 2007
On behalf of my organization and the many people incarcerated in Illinois prisons with
whom we are working, I would like to again thank the Committee and all the members of
the Illinois Legislature for this opportunity to present preliminary results of our work on
problems of health and medical services in Illinois prisons. It is very important that the
work of this Committee continues and that it be fully funded. The expose only this past
weekend in the Chicago Reader, of an MRSA epidemic in the Cook County Jail, shows
how important is correct and adequate medical care in prisons and jails for public health.
This is a preliminary report on a study spanning years of direct communications with
prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections regarding medical care. It examines a
self-selected sample of the prisoners. Patterns regarding health care within the system are
being documented. Some solutions can be projected.
The study summarizes patient medical charts maintained by the Illinois Department of
Corrections with prisoner narratives regarding their medical care. In 23 per cent of cases
the medical records provide prima facia evidence that medical care in the IDOC does not
meet generally accepted standards of care.
Certain categories of problems are most often inadequately treated. Hepatitis C and
problems of substance abuse are inadequately managed in 64 and 56 per cent of cases
reviewed, respectively. A third of cases of high cholesterol are inadequately managed.
Other problems are documented in the areas of congestive heart failure, multiple
sclerosis, coronary artery disease, and tinea.
There is often a wide discrepancy between the patient’s account of medical care received
and the patient medical chart. One must start from the assumption that unless proven
false, the accounts of prisoners and medical workers are both true. This contradiction can
only be resolved by independent examination by medical professionals. There may be
objective reasons for the disparity relating to failures of communication between patient
and medical staff, lack of trust between patients and staff, and problems specific to the
prison environment that are not documented in the medical record.