Defenders update on Texas prison medical care


by KVUE News

Posted on February 20, 2012 at 7:10 PM

AUSTIN -- An update to last week's Defenders investigation about the rising cost of medical care for Texas prison inmates.

The Defenders heard from many viewers on both sides of the issue. 

On the KVUE Insider Facebook page, Lauren Johnson wrote:  "Just because these people made bad choices doesn't mean they shouldn't be treated like human beings."

In contrast, Lisa Salazar wrote:  "I am appalled...I work hard and have never been in any kind of trouble, ever! And they have the "constitutional right" to healthcare! Absolutely disgusting!"

The Defenders found inmate medical care cost Texas taxpayers nearly $500 million last year.

Scott Medlock with the Texas Civil Rights Project argues the state is not spending enough.

"We're spending so little money on healthcare per prisoner per day The doctors at a unit are spending an average of about 60 seconds with prisoners at some facilities," said Medlock. That's just not enough time to make a competent diagnosis.

Medlock said the inmates the Defenders saw at the Estelle Unit in Huntsville do receive adequate treatment.  But at other facilities, he said the care is minimal and prisoners are often misdiagnosed.  

"In prison, you don't have a right to a second opinion," said Medlock. "If you were diagnosed a certain way, you're going to be stuck with a certain diagnosis until you can prove to the same doctor that they had diagnosed you the wrong way."

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