A 22-year-old woman may die of an easily treatable disease before she finishes her prison sentence at a Virginia facility quickly gaining a reputation for its abysmal health care.
Taylor Gilmer has lived with Type 1 diabetes with no problems since she was 7 years old. At the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, however, she says she is starting to go blind and her feet are turning purple. Gilmer says the medical staff give her Type 2 diabetes treatment, while prison guards forbid her from checking her blood sugar levels regularly.
Gilmer and 1,200 other Fluvanna inmates are looking to join a class action lawsuit against the prison, filed last year on behalf of five women.
The lawsuit charges that the prison’s private health care provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, denied care in order to maximize profits. One inmate says a prison doctor rejected her prescription because the medication was too costly. Prisoners must pay $5 for repeated visits, and allege that medical staff often refuse to examine, diagnose or treat serious illnesses, including blood clots and suspicious growths. According to an attorney working on the case, there have already been several deaths since they began tracking hundreds of complaints four years ago.
Recently, the Virginia Department of Corrections signed a new contract with Corizon, a different for-profit health care company with an equally shady record. Multiple lawsuits and investigations all over the country allege that Corizon staff ignored inmates’ requests for treatment, left sick patients unfed and in soiled linens for days, and made serious nursing mistakes. In one case, the company allegedly let a man die after rejecting an ambulance team because it would be too costly.
Fluvanna has also come under fire in recent years for segregating gay inmates into a “butch wing” and reportedly restricted prisoners’ access to religious services.