Prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola receive quality health care, the state corrections department’s medical director said Thursday in response to a lawsuit that described the service as grossly deficient.
Dr. Raman Singh, medical and mental health director for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, acknowledged that Angola’s 6,200-plus prisoner population presents its challenges due to the number of elderly inmates and those with chronic diseases.
“But LSP staff in collaboration with LSU and other private health care providers has provided appropriate, quality care despite the challenges and will continue to do so,” he said in a written statement.
Singh pointed out that the maximum-security prison at Angola is nationally accredited by the American Correctional Association and meets established national standards, including very specific health care standards.
“It should be noted that the groups that have filed the suit have only met with a small fraction of the offender population, yet very broadly claim that all offenders lack appropriate care. That assertion could not be more incorrect,” he said.
The dozen Angola inmates named as plaintiffs in the suit filed Wednesday in Baton Rouge federal court are represented by The Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans, the Advocacy Center in Lafayette, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana and the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
One inmate was denied access to a specialist for four years while his throat cancer advanced, the suit alleges, while another prisoner was denied medical attention four times during a stroke, which left him blind and paralyzed. A blind prisoner contends in the suit that he was denied a cane for 16 years.
The prisoners’ attorneys said they interviewed more than 200 inmates before filing the suit.
Singh said 6,244 inmates are assigned to the Louisiana State Penitentiary and all have access — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to emergency health care, with a physician on duty who lives on-site and is available around the clock.
The Angola prison also has six full-time physicians, 20 registered nurses, 32 emergency medical technicians and four pharmacists, as well as other licensed medical staff, he said.
Singh said there is a 63-bed inpatient unit and assisted living dorms with 172 beds at the state penitentiary. The prison offers on-site optometry services, physical therapy, laboratory services, X-ray and pharmacy operations and maintains six ambulances.
Angola inmates receive needed outpatient specialty services, diagnostic and surgical services and cancer treatment through contracts with the interim LSU Hospital New Orleans, Lallie Kemp Medical Center, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and other health care providers, Singh said.
The state penitentiary has developed one of the first prison hospice programs in the nation, he said, noting that it is award-winning and nationally respected.