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Federal court rules Michigan in contempt for failing to improve prison health care

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Western District of Michigan [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that the Michigan Department of Corrections [official website] in contempt of court for failing to conform with medical care requirements mandated by the court in a prior ruling. The court ordered [injunction, PDF] the department to correct its medication and staff deficiencies on or before February 1, 2007, and submit a staffing plan within 90 days, or face $2 million in fines. Judge Richard Enslen wrote that the court would not deny "an injunction to inmates who plainly proved an unsafe, life-threatening condition" and that a prisoner "does not deserve... a de facto and unauthorized death penalty at the hands of a callous and dysfunctional health care system" within the prison.

Michigan's Department of Corrections is under federal oversight after lawsuits brought by the ACLU National Prison Project [advocacy website] highlighted gross failures by the department in providing patients in prison with adequate care. In November, the court ordered the department [JURIST report] to "immediately cease and desist from the practice of using any form of punitive mechanical restraints" following the death of a mentally ill inmate who spent four days naked inside a hot, isolated cell due to hyperthermia and dehydration. In July 2005, a federal judge ordered independent oversight [JURIST report] of the prison health care system in California after previously describing it as "terrible." AP has more.

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