JACKSON, Miss. — The medical director for a privately run prison in east Mississippi told a federal court Wednesday that inmates sometimes have to miss medical appointments if the prison is locked down.
Lawyers started their defense this week of the state of Mississippi in a federal lawsuit in which plaintiffs claim East Mississippi Correctional Facility has unconstitutionally cruel conditions. The state’s defense lawyers argue that the conditions are acceptable, and that many of the inmates’ troubles are self-inflicted.
The prison, outside of Meridian in Lauderdale County, is operated under contract by Utah-based Management and Training Corp.
Warden Frank Shaw testified Monday that inmates who are not in solitary are usually free to walk to the prison’s medical unit without an escort. The Meridian Star reports that Dr. Patrick Arnold, EMCF’s medical director, testified Wednesday that in lockdown situations, inmates must be escorted by an officer.
Arnold said sometimes, no guards are available and an inmate is forced to miss his appointment. He is then rescheduled for the next one available.
Inmates’ appointment requests, or “sick calls,” are meant to be kept private. However, Arnold said the boxes where requests are submitted are not accessible to inmates, so guards must handle request forms so they can be submitted.
As medical director, Arnold said he does not have a say in minimum staffing requirements and is unaware of how many nursing positions are vacant. This duty falls to the nursing director, Arnold said.
“In general, as is the case with any doctor-nurse relationship, the doctor writes the orders or gives orders and it is the responsibility of the nurses to carry it out,” Arnold said.
Arnold, who specializes in internal medicine, holds 15 years of experience as a doctor for the facility, where the vast majority of inmates hold a mental health diagnosis.
Three days into their defense, the state has only a handful of witnesses left to testify. Defense lawyers have indicated they intend to wrap their case this week, after American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center lawyers argued the plaintiffs’ case for nearly a month. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning.
Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com