Updated: LAJC Taking Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women Back to CourtPosted: Updated:
The Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW) is again facing legal action for allegedly failing to provide proper health care to inmates.
Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) is demanding a federal judge hold the prison accountable to a settlement finalized in 2016, requiring a complete overhaul of the health care system at FCCW.
“It's just not part of your sentence to not receive necessary healthcare to keep you healthy and alive,” said LAJC Economic Justice Program Legal Director Brenda Castañeda.
A court filing alleges the deaths of two inmates in July could have been prevented if the prison followed that court order.
Sixty-three-year-old Sherry Richburg of Lynchburg is a former FCCW inmate, recently lost one of her legs.
“I work with this. I put myself in my wheelchair now,” said Richburg. “I'm able to do everything except the electric slide.”
Richburg had hoped to find freedom back at home when she was released in February. Instead, the prison sent her home in an ambulance. She couldn't sit up or feed herself, and had lost nearly 40 pounds.
“Each day I got progressively worse, and, it wasn't a good situation,” Richburg said.
A fungal infection growing around a femur transplant forced doctors at the University of Virginia Medical Center to remove Richburg's right leg back in April.
“The fungus had gotten so bad that they couldn't do nothing to save my leg. So they wanted to save my life,” said the former inmate.
Richburg said FCCW denied her a necessary medication, Diflucan, to prevent the infection during several months of her nine-month incarceration.
“I was given a punishment for what I did. OK, accepted. But, I was punished twice, and the second punishment was the loss of my leg,” she said.
In court documents, more than two dozen current and former inmates - including Richburg - describe delayed surgeries, denied access to specialists, no pain management, and lack of medications.
“Certainly some of the failings there could lead to somebody's death,” said Castañeda.
Legal Aid Justice Center is asking a federal judge to hold FCCW in contempt for failing to comply with an overhaul of medical services the Department of Corrections agreed to as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit.
“We've been trying to enforce that all along, and we've been hopeful that the prison would make some serious reforms, and they just haven't been able to do that,” Castañeda said.
The most recent report from an independent compliance monitor found the correctional center was in partial or non-compliance with 19 of 22 performance indicators established in the settlement.
The monitor found Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women rejected or didn't respond to a majority of grievances filed by inmates about their medical care.
The report calls this system, "shortsighted, dangerous, and likely negligent."
“I think they've tried to change some things, but the overall major systemic change hasn't happened and the result is people still aren't getting the healthcare they need,” said Castañeda.
Richburg is sharing her experience to help the women she met behind bars, cellmates she says saved her life when the prison wouldn't.
“The other ladies that's going through things down there, they don't have to be going through those things if the people in charge would just do what they're supposed to do,” she said.
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