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As most know, the case settled out of court, and the parties reached an agreement that the DOC and the healthcare provider (whomever it is) would comply with about 100 "performance measures" in order to demonstrate compliance. After 3 years, they were supposed to be in 85% compliance with all of the performance measures. The settlement was formally approved/adopted by the court in FebaurThe case has settled out of court (as we predicted for many months). The settlement was formally approved by the federal court in February 2015. We aren't completely pleased with the settlement. For example, it requires the Plaintiff's attorneys to provide a two-week notice before they inspect any prison medical units or examine records of prisoner care. This just invites the Department and its medical provider to "hide" either records or inmates (move inmates to a different unit than the one that will be inspected). Also, the settlement is dependent upon the DOC obtaining additional funding from the Legislature in order to hire more medical workers. This is fraught with potential for failure, especially in a budget year when Legislators will be facing a half-billion dollar shortfall. The settelment calls for the DOC to be in compliance with certain performance criteria, but must meet such criteria at a rate that never exceeds 85%. Hence, even with the best performance possible, only 85% of performance criteria will be met. The settlement does not have a provision which requires the Defendants (DOC) to take immediate action with regard to any problem or issue brought to their attention. The settlement only "presumes" this, but does not require it in writing. What this really means is that the DOC can ignore -- even when performing at its best required level -- 15% of the medical cases brought to their attention. This does not bode well, at least in our opinion.
Having said all of the above, we believe that some improvements will occur and it is a positive step in the right direction. Clearly, the settlement and its terms seem to suggest that the Plaintiff's lawyers were not certain of a "win" if they went to trial, and that is why the settlement is not stronger. Certainly, the lawyers on BOTH sides made out handsomely -- the bill for this litigation was over $8 million in attorney fees which went to Plaintiff and Defense attorneys and their firms.
Money Orders/Checks Will No Longer Be Accepted As Of October 2014:The DOC has announced a new policy, Director's Instruction 322, effecitve in October 15, 2014. From that time forward, all deposits to inmate accounts will be required to be completed via electronic money transfers with companies who are contracted with the DOC. We reviewed the contracts that DOC has with the companies who will handle the electronic transfers and, as far as we can detect, no kickback or "commission/incentive" amount will be paid to DOC by these companies. In any case, if you formally used a money order to send funds to a loved one, it cost you about $0.75. Now, sending money, depending upon the amount (as though it costs the company more to process the electronic transfer if the numbers are higher!!), it will cost about $6 - 8.00. This seems like just one more way for the Department and its cohorts to use prisoner's families as "cash cows." Having reseached the legality of this policy, we can find no case law to support a challenge to it, nor does it violate any constitutional right. The ONLY inmates who may be able to individually challenge the policy are ones whose regular monthly deposits come from a business, government agency or trust fund, etc., and who may not be able to arrange for electronic fund transfers from those entities. We will not be handling invidual litigation on that issue for separate inmates.
Snail Mail and E-Mail Advocacy: Middle Ground continues to receive about 300 letters each month from prisoners throughout the state, in both state-operated and private prisons, as well as to receive about 30-50 emails each day from family members of prisoners. We try to respond as quickly as we can. Please remind prisoners who send us letters that they should not sent original documents; they will not have documents returned to them unless they include return postage; we do not visit prisoners in person; and we do not provide free lawyers for appeals, civil rights cases or for any other purpose.