At Pulaski, Georgia’s second largest women’s prison, eight women have died in the past 10 months, and the deaths have struck a troubling chord, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Four years ago, revelations of deaths due to negligence at Pulaski led to the dismissal of its medical director and a state report on improving health care for women in prison. With another wave of deaths, new concerns have emerged, with at least one physician contending that she tried to warn officials that a crisis was looming. “I told them if they didn’t correct this stuff, they’d have a lot of girls who had cancer,” said Dr. Cheryl Young, who served briefly as the prisons’ women’s health specialist. “I told them that, but they didn’t want to hear it, because they didn’t want to spend the money.”
Evidence in at least three cases points to failures that caused inmates to languish, at times painfully so, as their treatments were delayed or their symptoms misunderstood. In a setting where Pap tests are supposed to be annual, an inmate incarcerated 18 years died from cervical cancer that went undetected until it had spread to other parts of her body. Another died from colon cancer that spread to her liver before anyone realized she was seriously ill. Another died from severe septic shock and multi-organ failure weeks after she returned to the prison while dealing with complications from intestinal surgery. Shaken by the deaths, inmates asked whether those incarcerated more than 10 years could be screened for various types of cancer. They were told tests would only be done when symptoms warranted. The medical care at Pulaski, a medium security facility with nearly a third of the 3,800 female state inmates, came under scrutiny in 2015 after the Journal-Constitution detailed how seven women died under questionable circumstances.