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Judge sides with Angola inmates in legal battle over prison healthcare

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BATON ROUGE - An eight-year legal battle ended in a win for prison reform, as Judge Shelly Dick ruled in favor of Angola prisoners.

"The court's decision validates the humanity of the thousands of men incarcerated in Angola," said Samantha Bosalavage with the Promise of Justice Initiative. 

The New Orleans-based firm represented the prisoners as a whole, claiming the medical care at the state penitentiary was inadequate and unconstitutional.

Judge Dick's opinion cites eight cases where inmates died, all involving repeated complaints of symptoms with no medical care given until it was too late. It included an inmate who complained of chest pains for over a year, finally getting to a doctor who found he had lung cancer and dying a week later.

Now she's demanding the feds step in.

"The court ordered the state to fix the problem. The court put in place guardrails to make sure the state essentially overhauls its entire healthcare system in Louisiana. This is a major win for incarcerated people in Louisiana," said Bosalavage. 

Judge Dick will appoint a special council of a doctor, a nurse practitioner and a person with disability experience. They will develop plans to make sure Angola is no longer inflicting 'cruel and unusual punishment' as she described.

However, the Department of Corrections released a statement Tuesday saying it will be appealing the decision.

"The Louisiana Department of Corrections (LDOC) strongly disagrees with the court’s opinion in this matter.  This matter has been pending since 2015.  During this entire time period, Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) has continued to improve health care at the facility, has added qualified health care personnel, and has improved its facilities. As evidenced by the recent 2020 pandemic, LSP has managed the healthcare and treatment of its population efficiently and effectively when compared to the community in general.  The court has refused to even consider current conditions at the facility in rendering its opinion. LDOC plans to appeal this ruling and based on all of these improvements believes that it will be reversed on appeal."


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