Entries in Prison (4)


Ex-Con Who Wanted to Go Back to Jail for Health Care Denied

Zoonar/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Ex-convict Frank Morrocco brazenly walked out of a supermarket Nov. 26 with $23 in stolen items, hoping his petty theft would land him back behind bars, where he could receive treatment for his leukemia.

On Monday, Morrocco turned himself in after he was informed that there was a federal warrant out for his arrest for violating the terms of his five-year supervised release, according to the Buffalo News. Morrocco was released from prison last December after serving two decades on drug charges.

On Monday, a federal judge denied him his wish to return.

Morrocco, 56, made what he saw as a life-or-death decision two weeks ago when he shoplifted from a supermarket.

When the Amherst, N.Y., man appeared before the judge on Monday, he was ordered to go to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and apply for health coverage under the New York Bridge plan, which is run by the state and caters to people with pre-existing conditions.

“I am thankful that it looks like I’m going to get health care coverage,” Morrocco told the Buffalo News on Monday.

It’s not the first time a sick person has turned to crime in order to get health care.

Last year, Richard James Verone handed a teller at RBC Bank in Gastonia, N.C., a note demanding $1 and claiming that he had a gun, according to the police report.

With a growth in his chest, two ruptured disks and no job, Verone hoped a three-year stint in prison would afford him the health care he needed.

“I’m sort of a logical person, and that was my logic, what I came up with,” Verone told reporters. “If it is called manipulation, then out of necessity because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care.”

Verone was released from prison last July.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Transgender Inmate Michelle Kosilek Fighting for Electrolysis

WCVB/ABC News(BOSTON) -- A convicted wife killer, who has been living as a woman in an all-male prison facility in Massachusetts, is fighting for electrolysis treatments while the Department of Corrections appeals a judge's earlier decision to grant the inmate gender reassignment surgery.

Lawyers for Michelle Kosilek, 63, who was born Robert, were to appear in federal court Monday to argue that the hair removal treatments are a necessary part of Kosilek's physical transformation into a woman.

Kosilek's attorneys wrote in court documents that she was initially granted the electrolysis treatments "to keep the issue from being fully litigated at trial, showing further indifference to Kosilek's serious medical needs."

In September, a federal judge ordered Massachusetts prison officials to provide Kosilek, who was convicted in the 1990 strangulation death of her wife, Cheryl, sexual reassignment surgery, calling it the only way to correct the "prolonged violation" of the inmate's Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Michelle Kosilek had experienced "intense mental anguish," and said there was a "serious medical need" for her to have the procedure.

"It has long been well-established that it is cruel for prison officials to permit an inmate to suffer unnecessarily from a serious medical need," the judge wrote in his 128-page decision.

He called it "unusual" to treat a prisoner with gender identity disorder differently "than the numerous inmates suffering from more familiar forms of mental illness."

Kosilek has tried to castrate herself and has attempted suicide twice, Wolf noted in his ruling.

Prison officials have said if Kosilek had the surgery she could be a target for sexual assaults, among other security risks, according to court documents.

Wolf said those concerns were "either pretextual or can be dealt with."

The court left the decision of where to house Kosilek after her surgery to the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections offered no immediate comment but said it planned to explore its appellate options.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Corrections in 2000. Two years later, Wolf ruled she should receive treatment for gender identity disorder, which included hormones. Kosilek sued again in 2005, again asking for gender reassignment surgery.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prison Dorms for Vets Offer Special Programs to Address Needs

Kevin Horan/Stone(NEW YORK) -- A west Georgia county jail opened a new dormitory on Monday that will specifically house inmates who are military veterans.

The new dorm, built onto the Muscogee County jail nearly two weeks ago, adds to the growing number of prisons across the nation that have done the same in an effort to address the special needs of service members.  The Florida Department of Corrections, which opened special dorms for veterans in five Florida prisons in November 2011, is among them.

Muscogee County officials announced the opening of its new facility at the county jail in Columbus, Ga., at a public meeting on Monday.  Muscogee County jail is 20 minutes away from Fort Benning, one of the largest military bases in Georgia.

Inmates who are military veterans have substance abuse or mental health problems at higher rates than nonmilitary inmates, according to Neil Richardson, chaplain at the Muscogee County jail.

"Rather than trying to ascertain whether this is due to time in the military or not, the fact is they are veterans," said Richardson.

The new dorm can house up to 16 veterans.  Those assigned to it will have a variety of community services available to them, such as a post traumatic stress disorder treatment program and a special Veterans Court, which was developed by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The jail has also partnered with New Horizons for mental health counseling, and with the Plummer House for housing for homeless and previously incarcerated veterans.

An internal investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs released this week said tens of thousands of veterans waited far longer in 2011 to receive mental health treatment than what the VA reported.

About one-third of VA patients wait longer than 14 days to start treatment, according to a report released by the VA inspector general.  The VA is the largest veterans health organization available to service members.

Some VA benefits are suspended when a servicemember is in jail.  The Veteran Court allows for veteran inmates to be sent treatment programs outside the state.

All veterans will receive access to the special programs regardless of whether they are housed in the dorms, said Kimberly Perkins, Veterans Court coordinator at the New Horizons community service board.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Are Prison Medical Records a Source for Medical Discoveries?

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It sounds like something out of science fiction -- doctors using a cache of prisoner health records to produce medical breakthroughs for the betterment of society.  But it's not.

Medical researchers across the country are eager to sift through electronic health data in hope of finding future health benefits.

And in an effort to control rising health care costs in the federal prison system, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, in a 2010 audit, recommended a plan to maintain analytical health data on inmates.  And while there are privacy concerns, the hope is that the strategy that will improve prison health care.

"Electronic medical records have the potential to improve the quality of care in a prison system," David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project.

The recent push for more electronic medical records by Washington has made it feasible for researchers to get their hands on useful medical data.  The 2009 Recovery Act signed into law by President Obama included $25.8 billion in incentives for the health care industry to adopt electronic medical records.

In the past, health insurance companies did most of the widespread analysis relying on data gathered from claims filed in databases.  With records in paper form, the analysis could not be completed as fast and potential benefits went unclaimed.

Paper medical records in a prison are a problem, according to Fathi.  As prisoners are frequently moved from facility to facility, an inmate's medical history often follows at an excruciatingly slow pace.  A doctor without complete records could, for instance, give an inmate a medication to which he or she was allergic, causing a potentially fatal reaction.

Fathi said he hopes that an electronic system will help improve communication between prisons.

Meanwhile, a fight is brewing over whether mining medical data violates patients' privacy.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in April over whether a private company had a First Amendment right to sell data-mining results to pharmaceutical companies.  In that case, the company argued that data mining could help advance medical discoveries.  Opponents argued that the sale of information is a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality.

While current law does protect individual medical data from being released, "de-identified" medical data is currently unregulated.

When researchers want to use medical data from your doctor's chart, they will strip out such data as your ZIP code, last name or email, thus disassociating the medical data from the personal information -- and making it impossible, in theory, for a researcher or a report reader to identify individual patients.

Under current law the patient doesn't need to give consent to use their medical data in research as long as the data is de-identified.  The Department of Justice could gather medical data in the same way through the federal prison system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio