Holding Minnesota Department of Corrections’ “feet to the fire” on inmate health care issues


I was utterly appalled when I read Paul McEnroe’s investigative piece in the Star Tribune this morning about health care and prison inmates. What came to my thoughts immediately where three things.

1. The arrogance of Minnesota Department of Corrections(DOC)officials not wanting to speak with Star Tribune.
2. Release of a public statement which raises more questions and need for answers. From my view an insensitive statement which explains nothing to the public, and
3. Who’s running the health care system for people in Minnesota Corrections, the Department or Corizon, who by public contract provides medical services for DOC.

The refusal of either the Commissioner of Corrections or top medical administrators to talk on record about this is insulting to the public who wants accountability and transparency on matters such as this. Rather than speak with the Star Tribune the DOC release a very generic public statement which seems to come right out of a PR handbook.

I am left with the feeling that nine deaths and millions of dollars paid by the State of Minnesota for negligence of care are “quality of insurance issues” which are “endemic to the health care industry”. The statement goes on to say the DOC meets the “community standard” of care as required by law. Tell the public DOC what is the “community standard” of care? Who determines the “community standard” of care?

The Star Tribune story indicates from their reporting that Corizon, formerly, Correctional Medical Services has “broad authority” to run the medical operations. With this broad authority that Corizon has, who is effectively overseeing the contract? Are there any independent reviews done by a third party of medical services provided in DOC in the last five years?

I am somewhat confused as to who the prison nurses are ultimately responsible too. Nurses play an important role in that first attention that is needed for medical service and treatment. Is there a convoluted relationship with Corizon where nurses serve two masters, the contract company and the State of Minnesota.

Who will take the initiative and responsibility to bring sunshine, ask questions, and bring accountability to the public on this disgusting situation brought to the public’s attention?

For starters, the appropriate Committees in the Minnesota Legislature. Secondly, Governor Dayton should instruct DOC officials to talk and come forward with the media and public about the situation.

Thanks to the Star Tribune for a great story and their use of the Data Practices Act which is a helpful tool to bring this kind of story to the public.