Reprinted from Reader Supported News
I recently wrote about the trouble getting necessary medical attention that CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling was encountering in prison. Sterling, who has a history of atrial fibrillation, had collapsed twice and was being denied both routine medical tests to determine if he had a heart blockage or other cardiac problem and a visit to an outside hospital or cardiac specialist. I asked readers to contact the warden of FCI Englewood, the prison where he is being held, and demand that Sterling be given the appropriate medical attention.
Our united strength and action is pushing this case in the right direction.
A day after my original piece was published on August 10, I received a call from a well-known Hollywood documentarian whose father had been a federal judge for 37 years. A Carter appointee, the judge had read the article and wanted to convey the fact that federal judges take complaints like those Sterling was making very seriously. He asked his son to suggest that Holly Sterling send a letter to Judge Leonie Brinkema, who sentenced Sterling to prison in the first place, telling her about her husband's medical predicament. Holly Sterling wrote that letter and sent it immediately.
Meanwhile, Arn Menconi, the Green Party's candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado, began a vigil outside the prison, demanding that Sterling be allowed to see a private cardiologist. Initially chased off federal property by the angry corrections officers on perimeter duty, he set up shop across the street and refused the polite and not-so-polite requests from the local sheriff's office to just leave quietly. The entire thing was live-streamed on Facebook. Menconi soon attracted five or six like-minded individuals to help him keep up the vigil 24-hours-a-day for three days.
Finally, dozens of people wrote on Facebook, Twitter, and in the comments section of the original RSN article that they had called the warden's office and demanded that Jeffrey Sterling be given appropriate medical care. I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is nothing that a prison administration office hates more than outsiders tying up its phone lines making demands for prisoners.
The pressure may have worked, although we're not home-free yet. Holly Sterling emailed me earlier this week to say that Jeffrey had been called to the prison medical unit, where he was told that the warden had reversed her decision and would recommend to the Bureau of Prisons Regional Office in Denver that he be taken to an outside cardiologist for testing. (He will also undergo a preliminary exam by the prison doctor on Monday, August 29.)
What this means is that the warden will send a letter to the regional medical officer (RMO) asking that Sterling be taken to the outside cardiologist. The RMO will review the medical file and determine whether the appointment is a medical necessity and whether money exists for it in the budget. The RMO has the final word.
As an aside, the reason that it's so important that Sterling see an outside cardiologist, rather than just the prison doctor, is that prisons are notorious dumping grounds for failed doctors. When the BOP finally attracts a decent doctor, he or she invariably leaves because the BOP leadership won't let him actually treat prisoners the way they should be treated. That happened when I was at FCI Loretto. A good doctor was then replaced by a failed pediatrician.
Without getting ahead of myself, Sterling's current situation looks to me like an at least preliminary success of broad action. Sterling is halfway to a cardiac specialist. The final decision will come down in the next three or four weeks. In the meantime, we have to continue to stand up and make sure that the BOP does the right thing.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.