Sixty-six prison inmates in California died last year from preventable or possibly preventable medical conditions, including six who died of asthma, according to a first-ever analysis of prison deaths in the state.
Out of a total of 426 inmate deaths, 315 died from nonpreventable medical deaths, of whom more than half experienced lapses in care that may have helped hasten their death or suffering, the analysis found.
A total of 43 patients committed suicide. There were 16 homicides and one execution.
Poor primary care, including the failure to respond to abnormal X-rays or to treat clear symptoms, was among the causes of the 66 preventable or possibly preventable deaths, according to the analysis.
In 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that Californias prison medical care violated the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment. He then appointed Robert Sillen, now the receiver for the California prison medical-care system, to reform the system. There are 175,000 adult inmates in the states 33-prison system.
The prison-death analysis paints a picture of a system that fails its charges, Sillen wrote in a letter to Henderson. Sillen said he is making asthma care a priority and is working to overhaul pharmacy, personnel and medical records systems, while raising wages to recruit capable medical staff. -- by Rebecca Vesely
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