Sunday, July 09, 2006

Prison Medical Failures Seen in Suit

Sunday, July 09, 2006
News staff writer
When Frances Coleman visited her brother during his dying days at Limestone Correctional Facility, she was stunned by his condition.

Skeletal, struggling for breath, he hadn't eaten in weeks and blood dripped from his mouth.

"The worst feeling in the world was to leave him there. I felt helpless. I felt like there was nothing I could do about it," Coleman said, recalling the late 2002 visit.

Soon after, Russell Battiste died as a result of pneumonia and wasting syndrome, complications from AIDS.

Coleman's experiences prompted her to file a lawsuit on her brother's behalf. Recently released depositions in that case reveal how lawyers charged with cutting costs shaped the medical contract that governed care for Battiste and the rest of the state's 28,000 inmates from 2001 to mid-2003. In the end, the contract went to Birmingham-based Naphcare, which had never handled medical care for a state prison system but did have contracts with jails.

During its tenure in the job, Naphcare was cited by independent auditors as providing "dangerous and extremely poor quality health care" at Limestone, as well as deficient care at Tutwiler Prison for Women and at St. Clair Correctional Facility, where the state's chronically ill prisoners are housed.



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