COVID-19 exacerbates Massachusetts DOC health care shortcomings


March 10, 2021
Daily Free Press
By Colbi Edmonds

The Massachusetts Department of Correction has a history of inadequate health care in its correctional facilities.

A Jan. 9, 2020 audit found the DOC did not always provide requested health care services to inmates within the required time periods or proper reentry planning from July 2016 to June 2018.

In a District of Massachusetts court case decided on July 31, 2019, it was ruled that inmate Timothy Reaves be transferred to a non-DOC facility to receive proper care for his injuries.

Reaves, who has quadriplegia, severe hearing loss and complications from a traumatic brain injury, reported inadequate care from the DOC, according to the ruling.

His dietary needs were not met, leading to malnourishment, he received improper motion therapy and he had fungal infections in his fingernail and toenails because no one assisted him with cutting them, among other incidents.

People in prisons have a constitutional right to health care because of the Eighth Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment. Boston University professor of health law, ethics and human rights Michael Grodin said people in prisons have been treated “inappropriately” and “ineffectively.”

“We took away their liberty,” he said. “The Supreme Court has held that prisoners have a right to adequate medical care.”

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