The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Nevada late yesterday filed in federal court a proposed agreement between a class of over 1,000 prisoners at Ely State Prison and top state prison and governmental officials that would settle a 2008 lawsuit charging that a pervasive pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at the prison created a substantial risk of serious medical harm for every prisoner in the facility.
The agreement, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, would result in an independent medical expert being appointed to monitor the prison’s health care system and submit regular reports evaluating prison officials’ compliance with specified medical requirements in the agreement. As part of the agreement, prison officials have agreed to build a better system of ensuring that necessary medications are provided to prisoners in a timely manner, develop health care treatment plans for any prisoners suffering from a chronic illness requiring ongoing medical care and provide prisoners with access to qualified medical staff seven days a week for any routine or emergency medical ailments.
“Nevada officials deserve credit for being willing to address medical care at Ely proactively,” said Amy Fettig, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Rather than spend years and years in costly litigation, both parties decided to sit down to collaborate on a solution. The result is vastly improved medical conditions for the prisoners at Ely.”
Additionally, prison officials have agreed to institute daily rounds by a nurse to pick up any medical request forms – ensuring that all prisoners have a confidential means of requesting medical care – and provide access to a registered nurse or higher level practitioner within 48 hours of a prisoner requesting medical attention.
“The reforms that prison officials have agreed to will go a long way toward fixing a very broken system,” said Lee Rowland, staff attorney with the ACLU of Nevada. “We brought this lawsuit in response to widespread evidence of unconstitutional medical conditions for Ely prisoners, and we are pleased that working collaboratively with the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Corrections has led to the resolution of some of the most pressing issues at Ely.”
The lawsuit contains three named plaintiffs, including 38-year-old David Riker, who alleged at the time the lawsuit was filed that despite his rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, he had never received prescribed medications and X-rays ordered by an outside physician and was told by Ely medical staff that treating chronic pain is against the policy of the prison.
Lawyers on the case include Fettig, Rowland, Maggie McLetchie of the ACLU of Nevada and Steve Hanlon of Holland & Knight, LLC.
Information about the ACLU’s efforts to improve medical conditions at the Ely State Prison, including a copy of today’s settlement agreement, is available online at: www.aclu.org/ely