Study filed in federal court shows conditions are not improved since report conducted in 2014

Four years after an expert found that the Illinois Department of Corrections failed to provide adequate medical care to prisoners across the state, conditions are “either no better or in fact worse in 2018.” Most disturbing, the medical professionals who conducted a new examination in 2018 finds that the poor care is resulting in deaths that could be prevented. Dr. Mike Puisis and his team – in a damning report filed in federal court today – examined 33 deaths in IDOC facilities. They found that one-third – 12 deaths – were preventable.  Another 7 were possibly preventable and the record-keeping in 5 cases were so poor or had missing documents so that the experts could not determine if the death was preventable.  

The stories of the preventable deaths are heart-breaking. In one instance, a 24-year-old with mental illness swallowed two plastic utensils (two sporks).  Despite being seen by medical personnel for symptoms including abdominal pain and the inability to eat, he went untreated.  The patient lost more than 50 pounds and was hospitalized only after being found unresponsive, where he died. The utensils were discovered during an autopsy.    

“We knew four years ago that prisoners in Illinois were subject to needless pain and suffering,” said Camille Bennett, staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois. “This latest report shows that the lack of adequate care is lethal.  Illinois must fix this problem.” 

The report by Dr. Mike Pusis and a team of court-appointed experts was filed today in federal court as part of on-going litigation in Lippert v. Godinez, a lawsuit challenging medical care in the IDOC system.  It builds on a report filed in 2015 (conducted in 2014) by Dr. Ronald Shansky and a team of medical experts. 

“This report tells a remarkably ugly story,” added Harold Hirshman, Senior Counsel at the Dentons law firm and counsel in the case. “Once again, a carefully-drafted, professional report concludes that the quality of care provided to Illinois prisoners is atrocious and leads to death.” 

Among other detailed findings, the new expert report criticizes DOC for not having enough qualified physicians. At Dixon Correctional Center, for example, 20% of the healthcare positions at the facility are vacant. Staffing shortages exist in every facility operated by IDOC.  

The filing of the expert report is the latest development in Lippert, et. al, v. Ghosh. A copy of the report can be found here.