Prison Health Work For NYC Teen Inmates Under Fire


A 14-year-old New York City girl with a history of suicide threats and a set of serious psychological problems was set to be jailed. Doctors had treated her bipolar disorder with powerful medicines and recommended that she keep receiving them in jail, says the New York Times. But Dr. Ralph L. Williams – an employee of Prison Health Services and the only full-time doctor for the city’s 19 juvenile centers across the city – stopped medications and placed her on Ritalin, a drug meant to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It took only days for Tiffany to deteriorate. Soon, she was hallucinating, fighting with other girls and spending hours staring at a wall. A judge moved to hold the doctor in criminal contempt. In doing so, joining at least five other judges who ordered more vigorous treatment by Prison Health, a company that cares for hundreds of thousands of inmates in New York State and across the nation.

The Times, concluding a three-part series, cites cases it calls a “distressing facet of what would be a four-year effort by Prison Health to provide care to young people in the city’s network of juvenile detention centers and group homes – a job that made the company about $15 million in revenue before it was replaced in 2003.” A prison health official said Dr. Williams felt that black children were too frequently put on psychiatric medications they did not need. The official said the doctor’s decisions to withdraw those medications were inappropriate, and that Prison Health forced him to resign in 2001.


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