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Your Children and Friends are Dying in Prison--here's why

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 Good Morning.

My name is Moss David Posner. I have been a physician with the California Department of Corrections for almost five years, before I was forced out. I’m putting my burden down now. I’m out of the picture, but I want to say a few things to you:

Here’s the threat: AB 1539 defines permanent incapacitation, which is the logical first step in compassionate release procedure. If this is diluted down, which appears to be what is happening, virtually no inmate will be able to meet the standard for compassionate release. AB. 1393, was to have put teeth into requests for disclosure of public records, has been gutted by eliminating the order for punitive damages for any agency which refuses to cooperate with lawful requests for records,

If there is---literally—no way out, then the seriously ill inmates are boxed in between being kept in prison, on one side, and being denied appropriate medical care, on the other. You have to push back on two fronts: first, the demand for the humane alternative of release of terminally incapacitated, and second, the demand for the needed care for everyone, especially those who are seriously ill.

In order to help you with the medical end of this dilemma, let me tell you why any hope of improving the medical care of the seriously ill is in such a mess as matters now stand.

Here are my credentials: I started out as a contractor, a staff physician at Pelican Bay. I went to Salinas Valley, where I was subsequently appointed the acting Chief Physician and Surgeon at Salinas Valley State Prison. From there, I was transferred to the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran as the acting Chief Medical Officer. From there, I then transferred to Corcoran-1 and asked by the then-Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Klarich to be the Chief Physician. When I complained about an anti-Semitic death threat, on paper and as defined by a yard captain, my appointment to the chief physician job was cancelled. Dr. Klarich told me this to my face. I have won round one of an action against the Department, and now am waiting on the result of an appellate hearing, which of course the department insisted on.

You see—that was my crime: trying to help inmates.

Let me fill out your picture of what really happens in the medical department.

I ran into brick walls everywhere I went. I worked 14-hour days at SATF, arriving early and not leaving until the restaurants in town closed. I spent hours each night speaking with distressed relatives, and doing whatever I could to make life more bearable for these unfortunate men. I kept detailed files on my computer so that I could have the information at my fingertips should any attorney called—and call they did. They deeply appreciated my help. I even got compliments from the prison law office, and they were upset when I was transferred.

You would think that all this would be appreciated and encouraged. You would think so---but you would be wrong. The California Department of Corrections doesn’t want to help their doctors give quality care.

I cannot count the number of times our requests for consults, requests for outside assistance, requests for equipment were ignored, even laughed at. Our orders were ignored. Some Correctional officers would just ignore appointments with us and with outside consultants. Officers would routinely throw out appliances desperately needed by inmates, when they transferred to other facilities. Orders for important treatments were ignored, and many cases just cancelled.

Here’s what happens to doctors: I’ve never been sued in 43 years of practice. I actually saw a Chief Physician, without my knowledge or permission, take over the care of my patient, changing my orders three times, and then when he realized I was right and he was wrong, changed the orders—again, and then, based upon his care, turned around and reported me to the medical board for what he had done. Go figure.

A word about the cops; A wise man once said, “stuff rolls downhill.” I don’t excuse any form of wrongdoing; but even so, keep in mind that, like the rest of us, the cops are subject to enormous peer pressure and pressure from those in charge. That’s no excuse, but don’t think for one moment that these guys are all acting on their own. The one who sets the tone and the way things are done is the warden; and he is totally responsible for everything that happens in that institution—and I mean, everything, including death threats.

We filed petitions. We met with officials—all resulting in nothing. I wrote letters to Judge Henderson, to the Receiver, Robert Sillen. I got nowhere. We got nowhere.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not sticking up for bad care; but I want you to understand what that “bad care” actually means.

You are all good people. You are not responsible for the mistakes made by your children and loved ones. You don’t--and your loved ones in prison don’t--deserve the kind of care they’re getting. Animals get better care. At least my cat did.

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Previously Staff Physician, California Department of Corrections
43 years in practice
writer on Social, Jewish and Medical issues
pilot, skiier, and perpitetic philosopher
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