Independent investigation into deaths at California prison urgently needed

"For several years we have received complaints about the inadequacy of medical care - and delays in treatment - in Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's prisons in California," the organisation stressed. "What is particularly alarming now is that these deaths have come just weeks after state legislative hearings raised concerns about medical neglect in these facilities."

In just over a month, seven Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have died at the Central California Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's Facility in Chowchilla. Local prison groups who have visited the prison have blamed slow and shoddy medical care for at least some of deaths. They have also argued that the use of guards as medical personnel conflicts with their custodial role.

Inmates have reported, for example, that the prison's medical technical assistants (MTAs) - guards who serve as the first line of prison health care - disregarded the complaints of inmate, Pamela Coffey, less than an hour before her death.

The Californian authorities have, however, maintained that medical practices, which were the target of a class-action lawsuit over inadequate medical care, have improved considerably.

"What is clear is that there continues to be serious questions about the delivery of health care and the ability of the MTAs to respond in crisis situations," Amnesty International maintained. "The time has come for medical standards to be independently - and regularly - monitored."

Amnesty International is also calling on Senator Richard Palanco, who presided over the Californian legislative hearings, to re-convene and commission an expert's report.

Background

The Central California Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's Facility serves as a hospital and hospice for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights throughout the Californian state prison system. There have been 15 deaths at the prison this year; nine in 1999 and 10 in 1998.

Four of the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who died in the past month were apparently suffering from terminal illnesses, but two of these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were reportedly not given prompt attention after they began suffering severe health problems. The Californian prison authorities have announced an internal investigation into three of the deaths within a one-month period.

In 1999 Amnesty International raised concerns about medical treatment - including the denial of adequate medical care and the need for independent monitoring - in two Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's prisons in California.

For more information please please see Amnesty International reports: "Not part of my sentence" Violations of the Human Rights of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Custody, March 1999 and A visit to Valley State Prison, California, April 1999

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