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Judge issues injunction over women’s prison medical care

January 3, 2019

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A federal judge issued an injunction Wednesday against top Virginia Department of Corrections officials, saying the department failed to provide adequate medical care at a women’s prison near Charlottesville.

News outlets report that Judge Norman Moon ruled the department didn’t live up to 8 of 22 standards established by a 2016 settlement aimed at improving care at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. Lawyers for the state have denied that any settlement provisions were breached.

The ruling requires the department to develop a protocol ensuring unimpeded access to care for inmates within 30 days. The prison must also have a staff of 78 nurses within 45 days and have a backboard or stretcher, an oxygen tank and mask, and a suction machine in every building that houses inmates within 14 days.

The appropriate level of care was established in a 2016 consent order settling a class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the care provided to the 1,200 inmates at the prison. Moon didn’t hold the officials in contempt, citing technical reasons, but ruled that he would enforce agreement provisions.

“Over six years ago, women at FCCW filed this lawsuit, seeking a remedy for pervasive constitutionally deficient medical care. Their quest continues. Some women have died along the way. But this case has survived because defendants have upheld neither their Eighth Amendment obligations nor the settlement agreement they reached to effectuate those obligations,” wrote Moon.

Referring to the deaths of at least four inmates at the prison since the agreement, Moon wrote, “In sum, the medical treatment these women received was neither timely nor appropriate, and their deaths illustrate the danger of not having appropriate medical equipment on hand.”

The state argued that bad publicity made it difficult to hire nurses and others to work at the prison, but Moon wrote “the bad publicity surrounding FCCW is defendants’ own fault, as it stems from FCCW’s original failures and the underlying lawsuit challenging them.”

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