E-Alerts & Press Releases

PJC Files Four Lawsuits for Information on Inmate Health Care

On June 12, 2006, the Public Justice Center filed lawsuits against four Maryland counties -- Allegany, Charles, Prince George's, and Talbot counties – for failing to provide information about health care and conditions of confinement in the county detention centers.  Despite the PJC's repeated efforts, these four counties wholly failed to respond to our requests.  The Maryland Public Information Act requires that a government agency respond to requests for public information within 30 days.  The PIA has important protections for Maryland citizens and their advocates because it requires transparency of government actions.  The PJC's lawsuits seek to enforce these important protections as well as to learn about health issues in county jails.
The cases were brought by PJC attorneys Wendy Hess and Sally Dworak-Fisher.  Wendy is quoted in the following article in the Daily Record.
John Nethercut
Executive Director
Public Justice Center
500 E. Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD  21202
voice 410-625-9409 Ext. 238
fax    410-625-9423
email nethercutj@publicjustice.org
website  www.publicjustice.org

Volume: 5   Number: 591_law

June 12, 2006


Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
Four jurisdictions that allegedly refused to answer Maryland Public Information Act requests concerning inmate health care in their detention facilities are the targets of lawsuits filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
PIA requests were sent out in January to every jurisdiction in the state, except Baltimore, by the Public Justice Center. The requests sought such records as the name of the facility’s health care provider; copies of any evaluations of the provider’s performance; documents relating to inmate deaths; copies of medical issues-related lawsuits filed against the detention center; and reports of communicable diseases in the facility.
The Baltimore-based PJC filed suit last week against the facilities it says has not responded: the Correctional Division of the Allegany County Office of the Sheriff; the Talbot County Department of Corrections; the Corrections Division of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office; and the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections.
“The PIA isn’t just a principle, it’s actually a practice so that citizens — and we consider ourselves advocates for the citizens of Maryland — can have access to government information,” commented Wendy N. Hess, a lawyer for the PJC.
The Court of Appeals last month “underscored the importance” of the PIA in Massey v. Galley, when it held that an inmate did not have to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prisoner Litigation Act before proceeding with a lawsuit under the PIA, Hess said.
Allegany County Sheriff David A. Goad, the only defendant who could be reached for comment on Friday, said he never got the PJC’s January request or a March follow-up letter. “We have nothing to hide from anybody,” he said, adding that he will be “more than happy” to comply with the PIA request.
The PJC was among those that filed suit in 2003, asking a judge to order the state to improve health care at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
The PIA requests were motivated, in part, by some of the problems the PJC confronted in there, Hess said, including delays in treatment, interruptions in medications, the prescription of possibly improper medications and the lack of follow-through with medical appointments.
Analyzing the responses she has received from 19 jurisdictions, Hess said she was particularly concerned about the presence of drug-resistant staph infections in detention facilities.

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