Sunday, November 30, 2014

Federal Bureau of Prisons Medical Care: A Follow Up

How Long Can the BOP Avoid Responsibility for Inferior Medical Care?


By Derek Gilna


            As you know, I have previously written about substandard BOP medical care, which has cost untold suffering and even death from inexcusable neglect.  It is clear that the BOP is facing a potential flood of litigation and damage claims for this cold and calculating practice, attempting to balance their budgets by failing to provide proper health services to their prisoners.  No story that I have written has received more heartfelt response than this one.

More and more federal class actions have been filed against state DOC’s, and some have settled, including one involving the state of Arizona. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf more than 33,000 in the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona DOC has one of the “worst prison health care systems” in the country.

Dr. Robert Cohen, a medical expert who has himself overseen prisoner health care systems in the past, found that at least 13 of the 29 prisoners whose cases he reviewed received “grossly deficient” care. He cited one instance of a prisoner who requested HIV testing twice being denied and later dying of AIDS, and another instance where a prisoner passed away after being refused treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a result he termed, “shocking.”

   Prisoners who complained were told to “be’s all in your head.. (or) pray…”  The Arizona complaint continued: “Defendants are deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of pain and suffering to prisoners, including deaths, which occur due to Defendants’ failure to provide minimally adequate health care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.  Does this sound familiar?  He could also be describing the current condition of medical care in the BOP.

Obviously, the BOP is playing the odds, hoping that you will give up, not assert your constitutional rights, or become too ill or infirm to advocate for yourself.  I am telling you that it is not impossible to get relief.  It may take months, and yes, it may take some money, but there are avenues for relief, if not outright release.  Remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act still applies to you even if you are in prison.  The courts are not ignorant of the BOP health care fiasco, and more and more cases are wending their way through the system.  It’s not too late to save your life and health.

 Oh, and the answer to the question I asked in the beginning?  The answer is: as long as you let them get away with it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Sad Truth About BOP Medical Care

Justice Demands that Prison Populations Drop and the Quality of Medical Care Increase


By Derek Gilna


            The Justice Department’s Inspector General recently stated what we already know:  the BOP, due largely to overcrowding stemming from over-sentencing, is in serious crisis.  Although his report dwells on the “safety and security” factors related to that overcrowding, I prefer to focus on the human suffering and death causes by the BOP under funding or in some cases just ignoring the serious issues it faces in health care and mental health treatment.

            “From … 2009 to…2013, the population of sentence inmates 50 and over (who generally require more medical care than younger inmates) has increased 25 percent…the BOP spent   more than $1 billion on prisoner health care in 2013?”  That figure of a billion dollars will come as a great surprise to BOP prisoners with significant medical and mental health issues that are not being addressed.  (I would like to have the contract for supplying the BOP with Tylenol-the go-to drug for every malady, including internal bleeding and heart attack, according to the BOP medical staff).

            That’s why I have made it my mission to seek justice for the prisoners and their families caught in the web of deception that constitutes BOP medical care.  Too many prisoners die of unnecessarily in federal custody for lack of prompt medical attention.  Too many prisoners suffer from untreated mental health issues that could be treated while they are in custody, and lead to a more successful reentry into society.

            Not all of these problems are completely the fault of the BOP; Congress, the Justice Department, and the Courts all share part of the blame.  Only recently have some officeholders, such as Attorney General Holder, stepped forward to try to correct some of these problems that often mean that a sentence to BOP imprisonment is a de-facto death penalty.  The tens of thousands of ill federal prisoners and their families demand justice, either Civil Rights actions or Compassionate Release.  The good news is that you do not have to face this challenge alone.  It is time to take action, before it is too late and before you are too ill or infirm to care.  Contact your families and tell them the truth about BOP medical care.


Derek Gilna (847) 878-0160

113 McHenry #173

Buffalo Grove, Il  60089


Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Illegal Government Surveillance Exposed

Yet Another Illegal Government Surveillance Program Exposed


By Derek Gilna


            It has been an open secret that law enforcement has often tracked suspects by targeting their cell phones, a technology that relied upon electronic tracking via devices placed in government vehicles.  The revelations of defector and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden also brought to light the fact that the federal government has been listening in on cell phone conversations without proper warrants for years, much to the embarrassment of the federal government.

            The newest government surveillance program involves using “Dirtboxes” placed on government planes that crisscross the country, looking for “pings” disclosing the location of suspects, including drug suspects, not just terrorists, whose cell phone numbers have been entered into a master database.  (The proper name for the device is a DRT, short for Digital Receiver Technology.)

            Recent court cases have shown that the Supreme Court is increasingly wary of this enhanced warrantless surveillance of American citizens.  It has struck down convictions in cases where agents placed GPS devices on suspect’s vehicle to track its whereabouts without warrants.  Needless to say, it is very likely law enforcement will go to any lengths to conceal this illegal surveillance not only from the defendant and his attorney, but probably also government prosecutors.

            I have one of those cases pending at this time, where the judge has granted a delay in the progress of the case while a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) is being processed by the Justice Department and the DEA.  The client’s lawfully-operated truck was stopped on a country road without any reason given, and within minutes dogs and a drug task force, complete with sniffer dogs, materialized on this lonely country road to search for drugs.  Do you believe in coincidences?  This case continues.

            Most drug cases rely upon the testimony of informants, since the government rarely seems capable of finding illegal drugs without inside help.  However, there are cases out there where the circumstances of the arrest are more than a bit suspicious, leading one to believe that illegal government surveillance was used to arrest and convict.

            Once again, to gain relief, you are by now well aware that you need someone on your side that is conversant with the newest developments in criminal defense strategy and opportunities for sentence relief.  Were you the victim of illegal surveillance? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BOP Medical Care Under Scrutiny

Poor Medical Care in Bureau of Prisons Inefficient, Costly, and Deadly


By Derek Gilna


No one who is familiar with the sorry state of medical care in the BOP should be surprised that  the U.S. government mishandled the Ebola crisis.  Like the BOP, when the Ebola crisis arose, there was no one in charge, there had been  limited or no training of people responsible for treating it, no accountability for obvious failures of planning and treatment, and more time spent on covering up the problem instead of actually finding a solution.  At the moment, America is apparently Ebola-free, but no thanks to the government.

            Unfortunately, for confined prisoners in the BOP, as well as numerous state and county correctional institutions, the horror of poor medical care continues.  Instances of serious and preventable suffering, illness, injury, and death are common in every institution.  It is evident from an objective analysis of the BOP medical system that the mission of the agency is to give the minimal amount of care necessary to avoid being sued, without regard for the long term consequences of the health of the prisoner. 

            How many times will the BOP prescribe Tylenol and a few days off, for dizzy spells, loss of consciousness, and complaints that indicate the prisoner has serious medical problems that need a proper diagnosis?  How long with people who were diagnosed with cancer before they even entered the system be denied treatment?  How long will the BOP continue to deny compassionate release to aged and infirm prisoners who could no re-offend even if they desired to do so?

            The solution is relatively simple.  The BOP must fast-track the release of its elderly prisoners, and must also facilitate the placement of them and other eligible prisoners into the Medicaid system. (This is already happening on the state level.) They must reform the current release and re-entry system to find these people a place to live.  They must stop wasting money confining people who have terminal medical conditions that they clearly resent having to treat.

            The BOP won’t do this because it is obvious or the right thing to do.  After all, as long as Congress keeps giving them money to spend on poorly managed medical care, they will continue to waste it. No, you will have to stand up for yourself, and have the help of someone that understands the system, who has been down this road before, someone who has actually completed a compassionate release, someone who has sued or researched and facilitated lawsuits against the federal government for not years, but decades. To get their attention, you will have to sue.  Nothing will happen until you take action.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Remedies for BOP Prison Medical Staff Negligence

Legal Remedies Exist for BOP Medical Malpractice


            As anyone who has attempted to be fairly and properly treated by the BOP’s health-care system knows, it can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience.  Administrators seem to feel that many ailments can be cured by two or three days off of work and a Tylenol tablet.  Every year, many prisoners die needlessly in BOP custody, suffering the final indignity of being shackled, per BOP regulations, for their final ride to an outside medical facility to be declared legally dead.

There are remedies for BOP medical mistreatment, as happened recently in a little noted decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, which found deliberate indifference in denying a BOP motion to dismiss.  The court noted that the prisoner-plaintiff had well-documented his medical history, and received a diagnosis of a latent TB illness, which went properly untreated, violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. This as we all know is not an isolated incident;  unnecessary deaths occur every day in the prison system.

In Tennessee recently almost $750,000 was awarded in a case involving the death of a newborn where the mother entered the system pregnant and failed to get the medical care that she needed.  Guards were more interested in getting their “Count” right than in rushing her to the hospital to give birth.

 Tuberculosis has been widely recognized as a serious and potentially deadly disease when introduced to the high-density environment of prison life. There are many others, including MRSA. The court rejected the BOP defense of qualified immunity, finding that, “the relevant, dispositive inquiry in determining whether a right is clearly established is whether it would be clear to a reasonable office that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.”  Here, where BOP procedures and accepted medical practice were not followed, the prisoner lawsuit was permitted to continue.

The best way to receive appropriate medical treatment in prison is to document, document, document.  Emails regarding medical tests and treatment must be kept and responded to by medical staff.  Be persistent in your complaints, and send copies of your medical records, which you are free to request at any time, home to your family or friends.  Finally, if all else fails, contact me immediately at (847) 878-0160.  I can get you the help you need and if I can’t I will tell you who can help you, free of charge.