Please Sign these letters for healthcare for people in prison in California!

Being in physical distress locked in a cell turns into a truly terrifying experience when you can hear the cops banter with each other about you being a “crybaby”…and they’ll get to it when they have finished cutting it up with each other. It’s especially terrifying when you are experiencing symptoms you don’t understand & you have witnessed others calling for help only to learn that person didn’t survive.
-Sonja Marcus, formerly incarcerated woman, survived 18 years in prison

On July 30, 2014 a woman committed suicide in the Solitary Housing Unit (SHU) of the California Institution for Women (CIW), in Corona. According to information gathered by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), there have been seven preventable deaths at CIW so far in 2014 and three attempted suicides since July alone. None of these deaths have been made public by CIW or CDCR although they signify a state of crisis in the prison.

Prison officials have failed to inform bereaved family members of these deaths in a timely and respectful manner. Margie Kobashigawa, the mother of 30-year-old Alicia Thompson, who died of an alleged suicide on February 24, 2014 in the SHU, was ignored by prison staff. 

“Nobody from the prison would call me back, nobody would talk to me. I was planning to pick up my daughter’s body and suddenly CIW was trying to cremate her again, and quickly. To me it’s like they’re trying to hide everything,” said Margie. As she prepared her daughter for burial, she found no signs of hanging trauma to her body and has reason to believe her daughter died from some other type of violent force.

On March 13, 2014 Shadae Schmidt, a 32-year-old African American woman, died in the CIW SHU. Shadae had a stroke in February 2014 and was prematurely returned to the SHU. She was given medication that made her sick but her requests for a change in prescription fell on deaf ears; and then she died.

CCWP received information regarding these two deaths from friends and family members, but other deaths, suicides and attempted suicides remain shrouded in mystery. 

The majority of people in the SHU have some type of mental health problem, which is exacerbated by solitary confinement. CCWP continues to hear reports that there is no medical staff to monitor people’s vital signs and mental states when physical and mental health crises occur. People scream for help and get no response at all. 

Since the closure of Valley State Women’s Prison in January 2013, overcrowding at CIW has skyrocketed. Medical care has significantly deteriorated and there has been a dramatic increase in the population of the SHU and other disciplinary segregation units. 

Overcrowding has aggravated mental health issues causing an increase in the number of mentally disabled people in the SHU even though this is the worst place to put them.

In August 2014, in response to a court order, the CDCR released revised policies to reduce the number of people with mental health diagnoses in isolation. Policy changes are only useful if they are implemented. It is crucial for the CDCR to transfer all people with mental health issues out of the CIW SHU as soon as possible in accordance with the court order. 

Despite decades of lawsuits to remedy prison health care and court orders to reduce prison overcrowding, the inhuman conditions inside CA women’s prisons continue and have led to these tragic, violent and untimely deaths. In order to reverse the crisis at CIW, CCWP calls for the following immediate actions:
  • Immediate transfer of all prisoners with mental health issues from the SHU and implementation of care programs.
  • Increased healthcare staffing and care for people in the SHU.
  • An independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding all deaths at CIW in 2014.
  • Reduction of overcrowding through the implementation of existing release programs rather than transfers to other equally problematic prisons and jails.
PLEASE CALL, EMAIL, WRITE or FAX these people with the demands above:
Sara Malone, Chief Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman
1515 S. Street, Room 124 S.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Tel: (916) 327-8467  Fax: (916) 324-8263
Kimberly Hughes, Warden CIW
Tel: (909) 597-1771
Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson
District 19, Senate Budget Committee
Vice-Chair of Women’s Caucus
(916) 651-4019
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
District 15, Women’s Caucus
(916) 319-2015
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
District 17
(916) 319-2017
Senator Mark Leno
Senator Loni Hancock
Senator Holly Mitchell
District 26, Women’s Caucus
Public Safety Committee (916) 651-4015
Senator Jim Beall
District 15, Senate Budget Committee
(916) 651-4026
Jay Virbel, Associate Director of Female Offender Programs & Services
(916) 322-1627
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 95811
Jeffrey Beard, CDCR Secretary
(916) 323-6001
PO Box 942883

Sacramento, CA 95811

Also from CURB
Please sign here to sign CURB’s letter for decent healthcare at CSP-Corcoran!


Corcoran SHU prisoners start hunger strike for decent healthcare; support needed now

Sept. 28th, 2014
From: SFBayview

On Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, three men locked inside unit 4B-1L of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) of California State Prison-Corcoran started a hunger strike:
Heshima Denham (J-38283), followed on Sept. 27 by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough (D-83611), and Kambui Robinson (C-82830) will join them the following day for a few days or as long as he can considering his poor health.

The medical care at Corcoran SHU is so bad that life-threatening situations have occurred on too many occasions to the people in the SHU and possibly also elsewhere at CSP-Corcoran that they have had to resort to a hunger strike, the ultimate nonviolent protest, in order to make this point known to the warden, the medical receiver appointed by the court to oversee California’s notoriously bad prison healthcare, and the administration of the California Department of Corrections (CDCr).

Several factors made the three decide to protest the lack of healthcare now: Kambui has diabetes that is very badly regulated with a HBA1C of 9.3 – far too high for diabetics, especially with those already suffering loss of eyesight and neuropathy – and Zaharibu has dangerous, untreated, extremely high cholesterol, making him very vulnerable to stroke, and he has untreated gall stones and a CPAP machine [for sleep apnea, can cause strokes] without an extension cord to work effectively.

Custody staff interfering with medical staff is causing dangerous situations.

What can you do to help?

Ideally we want Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough and Kambui Robinson moved to Vacaville or New Folsom medical facilities. Kambui’s situation is most critical:

He needs more control over his insulin-dependent diabetes – better regulation, prevention of more complications, and a special diet for diabetics, with sufficient carbohydrates, low fat, whole grains, access to glucose and daily exercise outside his cell. He also needs a diagnostic scan to determine nerve damage in his brain.

For Michael Dorrough (D-83611): normal access to the CPAP machine, treatment for high cholesterol levels and treatment for gallstones.

[Note: Both Michael Dorrough and Kambui Robinson also need to be moved away from the Central Valley due to Valley Fever!]

Finally, for Heshima Denham (J-38283), we need an MRI-scan to make a diagnosis of the pain in his right side and treatment for whatever is causing it. Heshima was recently also diagnosed with PTSD.
Please keep in mind these are medical issues that should be treated with discretion.

Although I concentrate on these three people who are on a hunger strike, they have expressed that they are striking for all people with a disease or injury needing better care, chronic or not, at CSP-Corcoran.

Although I concentrate on these three people who are on a hunger strike, they have expressed that they are striking for all people with a disease or injury needing better care, chronic or not, at CSP-Corcoran.

Call or write to the Corcoran warden, or leave a message with his secretary. Below is a proposed script:

Call or email Warden Dave Davey, at 559 992-8800 or, or write to him at P.O. Box 8800, Corcoran, CA 93212-8309.

[Please cc emails to: Dr Clarence Cryer, , Chief Executive Officer in charge of health care at CSP-Corcoran.]

Call or send a copy of your letter or email to Diana Toche, Undersecretary for Health Care Services and Undersecretary for Administration and Offender Services, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Correctional Health Care Services, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001, 916-691-0209,

Also send a copy to the Medical Receiver, California Correctional Health Care Services, Controlled Correspondence Unit, P.O. Box 588500, Elk Grove, CA 95758,

Finally, contact the Ombudsman, at

Suggested script for your phone call, email or letter:

I am contacting you concerning the lack of specialized healthcare for people inside the CSP-Corcoran SHU, especially those with chronic diseases. I would like to make you aware of the fact that there is a hunger strike going on inside to demand that people with diabetes or sleep apnea and in need of special diets and other mental and physical healthcare get treated as they would when not incarcerated. Insulin-dependent diabetics with complications and patients with CPAP machines, mental illness such as PTSD and other mental challenges should not be in the SHU but in a medical facility.

The healthcare system in several California prisons is failing badly and we demand prompt action now:

Either move the diabetic patients and the CPAP-machine patients, as well as all other chronic disease patients, to a medical facility or improve the healthcare system, including the rules for, for instance, MRI scans in CSP-Corcoran.

MRI scans are only allowed when there is a physically visible wound. This is wrong!
Also, prevent custody staff from interfering with medical issues, please!

I respectfully insist you act this week to start making specific and general improvements to the healthcare in CSP-Corcoran SHU, before lives are lost.

Thank you.

California prisons to stay tortuously overcrowded

From Russia Today (RT):
August 14th 2012

Prison officials in California have a problem with overcrowded institutions, but it isn’t what you might think: unable to keep their facilities under 137.5 percent capacity, corrections officers in Cali are asking for an increase in that cap.

California authorities have had more than a year now to try and find a solution to fix the state’s booming prison population, but as of this week say that they don’t expect to end an issue with overcrowding until even well into 2013.

In May of 2011, the US Supreme Court said that overcrowding was such an issue in California that the conditions prisoners were being subjected to there were on par with “cruel and unusual punishment.” At the time, the Supreme Court said California had two years to come to terms with the problem and ensure that all institutions on the Golden Coast were kept under 137.5 percent capacity. State officials now say that such a goal is unlikely — even with another year until their deadline — but a federal court says they want to see what is being done to address the problem.

In a last-ditch attempt to end its overcrowding problem, a panel of three federal judges say California has until this Friday to figure out which of its prisoners are “unlikely to re-offend or who might otherwise be candidates for early release,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The federal judges want California leaders to outline a plan this week to put less harmful prisoners back on the streets as a way of opening up its jail cells. Prison officials say that they plan on offering up a proposal of their own that keeps them close-to-quota without releasing anyone, though: according to the Times, state officials intend on asking the high court for a prison cap of 145 percent, not the current 137.5, because they believe that they can keep their facilities running efficiently and still to the brim with inmates — even nearly 50 percent more than what their buildings are designed to hold.

“Reducing the inmate population is not the goal of the court,” corrections agency spokesman Bill Sessa tells the paper. “It is a means to an end, which is providing better healthcare that was compromised by overcrowding.”

Mr. Sessa adds to the Times that the state’s healthcare woes will be remediated, at least a little, when a 1,700-bed facilities is opened in Stockton next year, a city that recently was forced to file for bankruptcy protection. But even with that new institution opening up in 2013, a population cap of 145 percent means prison officials want to cram around 118,000 inmates into spaces intended for 81,500.

Read the rest here.

California prison healthcare: oversight going back to the state.

—————from the LA TIMES————

Inmate advocates question state’s commitment to prison healthcare

The judge who called California’s medical care of inmates cruel and unusual punishment has ordered a plan to return control to the state. But inmates question if improvements will continue without U.S. supervision.

February 10, 2012|By Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from San Quentin — Fifteen years ago, Jackie Clark was so disgusted with the healthcare at San Quentin prison that she quit her job there as a nurse consultant.

“We didn’t have sinks. We didn’t have appropriate medical equipment,” she recalled recently. “We were in converted offices and converted cells.”

The care there and elsewhere in California’s overcrowded lockups was so poor that in 2006 a federal judge, saying that an inmate was dying unnecessarily every week, put a receiver in charge of the health system. A cascade of court decisions that followed forced the state to begin lowering the country’s largest state prisoner population by almost 25%.

Today, Clark is back at San Quentin Correctional Facility as its top medical official, overseeing a new $135-million clinic that is the showcase for six years of progress. The judge who once said California’s dismal prison medical care constituted cruel and unusual punishment now says federal control could soon end.

“Many of the goals of the receivership have been accomplished,” U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson wrote last month, ordering up a plan for transferring control back to the state.

But advocates for inmates and some medical officials question whether the system will continue to improve without federal oversight. Despite San Quentin’s new clinic, many of California’s 33 prisons are still stuck with outdated or cramped facilities.

State officials say they are ready. Subpar doctors have been replaced with board-certified physicians. The state is converting reams of paper files into digital records, and aging computers have been tossed.

Prescription drugs are no longer handed out haphazardly by overworked staff members with dangerously incomplete patient records.

Corrections Secretary Matt Cate said Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, not an unelected federal receiver, should be deciding how the state spends roughly $1.8 billion a year on inmate medical care.

Californians “voted for Jerry Brown, and that’s who should run government,” he said. The court should “have some faith that we’ll be able to get this done without backsliding into conditions that were found unconstitutional to begin with.”

But the receiver, J. Clark Kelso, isn’t sure. The Brown administration has suspended plans for new medical buildings and $750 million in upgrades of existing clinics, and Kelso said that getting adequate facilities has been a constant challenge.

“I keep getting pressure from the state — ‘Are you done yet, are you done yet?’ ” Kelso said. “Look in the mirror! I would have been done if you had just followed through on the things you said you were going to do.”

Donald Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, the advocacy group that filed the lawsuit that led to the receivership, fears that the financially strapped state may stop investing in inmate healthcare.

“Jerry Brown has cut almost every social service for free people in order to balance the budget,” Specter said. “So I’m concerned what he would do to the prison medical care budget without a court order.”

Before the court took over in 2006, California’s vast prison healthcare system was dangerous and unsanitary.
Cate, who was state inspector general then, said it was substandard “for any human being, regardless of whether you’re incarcerated.”

In addition to the physicians’ shortcomings, clinical space was decrepit and technology was inadequate. Ceilings leaked. Doctors and nurses had no reliable way to track patients.

Sam Johnson, who has been incarcerated at San Quentin for nearly 14 years for murder, said inmates waited months for a checkup and often didn’t get the care they needed. He recalled a fellow prisoner who complained of chest pains, was given Pepto-Bismol for heartburn and was dead in his cell by the end of the day.

“We didn’t matter to them,” Johnson said.

State statistics show that prison deaths considered preventable or likely to have been preventable dropped from 18 in 2006 to five in 2010, a 72% decrease. Spending on inmate healthcare jumped from $948 million before the receiver arrived to a peak of nearly $2.3 billion in the 2008-09 fiscal year. Prison medical spending is projected at almost $1.8 billion in Brown’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

The state is now working to reduce its inmate population by 33,000 by mid-2013 under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year. Low-level offenders now remain in county jails instead of being sent to state prisons.

Cate said he wants to continue upgrading medical facilities, but he questions the need for more building as the prison population drops. “How do we know we’re not going to overbuild with a declining population?” Cate said.

The state and the receiver are examining the issue. But Kelso, who earned $280,000 last year, said some parts of the prison system still lack adequate facilities.

“I’d like to have hot water. I’d like to have clinic space that is actually clinic space and not a converted linen closet,” Kelso said. “I’d like to see facilities that are designed to deliver healthcare. It’s not an outrageous request, it seems to me. Unfortunately, to do any kind of construction in a prison is costly.”

At Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, inmates are examined in a sparsely equipped room once used for receiving packages. Drugs are sorted in a converted arsenal, and a closet became a nurses’ office.

The prison’s chief medical officer, Michael Kim, said a recent power outage forced pharmacists to throw out some drugs as they struggled to keep the refrigerator running.

“We’re like a duct-tape institution,” Kim said.

Inmates complained that the medical staff cuts corners.

“They try to save money in everything they do to treat you,” said John James, 35, who is serving time for weapons possession. He said doctors delayed treatment he needed for a broken ankle for months and did not give him adequate painkillers.

“They’re kind of callous to inmate suffering and pain,” he said.

California loses fight to end prison oversight

Apr. 30, 2010
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The Schwarzenegger administration lost a legal fight Friday to end oversight of California’s prison health care system.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge can continue with a court-appointed receiver to improve inmate medical care.

The appeals court also dismissed the administration’s request to stop the receiver’s construction plans to add medical beds.

Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the state will appeal the entire ruling to a larger panel of the appeals court.

California has been trying to end federal oversight of the state’s prison system, largely because of the growing costs. The state is facing a projected $20 billion deficit through June 2011.

State officials argued the receiver in charge of making improvements had no right to order the construction of 10,000 new beds, which would cost about $6 billion.

The receiver has since responded with a more modest proposal to build two prison hospitals to house 3,400 inmates at a cost of $1.9 billion.

The appeals court upheld the district court’s authority to appoint a receiver, saying it was the least intrusive way to remedy prisoners’ rights.

The state did not oppose or appeal when the court appointed the receiver back in 2006 to improve care at the state’s 33 adult prisons.

“We are compelled to point out that … the state is in a poor position to assert this objection to the receivership,” the court panel wrote. “The receivership was imposed only after the state admitted its inability to comply with consent orders intended to remedy the constitutional violations in its prisons.”

Link to article click Here