Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Interpreters in Courts v. Interpreters in Jails

One of my favorite blogs the Indiana Law Blog reports on a recent Indiana Supreme Court case Jesus Arrieta v. State of Indiana, in which the Court ruled that trial courts need to provide interpreters even when a defendant is not declared indigent.

We have brought a similiar situation in the Marion County jail to the attention of the Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson, the Indianapolis City-County Council, Public Safety Director Scott Newman among others. Approximately 1100 inmates are incarcerated at Marion County Jail #2, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Many of the inmates are Spanish-speaking. During the course of their incarceration, inmates have to meet with doctors and nurses. Confidential medical information information is conveyed between the inmates and the CCA doctors and nurses. CCA though will not hire a translator for the inmates. Instead, undoubtedly to save money and keep its profit margins high, CCA enlists the help of other Spanish-speaking inmates to act as translators for the medical staff.

It doesn't take much legal knowledge to know that this is a violation of HIPAA. Even if the inmate were to consent to the inmate interpreter (like he has any choice if he wants to communicate with CCA's medical staff), it has a chilling effect on what an inmate might be willing to reveal to a doctor or nurse using an inmate translator. For example, one former CCA nurse told me she found out later that an inmate was HIV positive, a fact he did not want to reveal through an inmate translator.

Further, there is an additional problem. Doctors and nurses convey a great deal of technical medical information to their patients. With an inmate translator, the doctors and nurses have no way of knowing that the medical information they are trying to convey is being translated correctly by the inmate translator.

Of course, Marion County Sheriff Frank Andrson, who is directly responsible for the operation of Marion County jails, including the privatized Jail #2, is well aware of the lack of translators, as well as the fact that CCA does medical intakes and examinations at Marion County Jail #2 in the audio presence of other inmates, another HIPAA violation. You think the good Sheriff does anything to stop the practice? Nope. The Sheriff continues his philosophy of, when confronted with a problem in his jails, to simply look the other way. One would think that when he was stripped of his law enforcement authority he would have more time to devote himself to investigating what goes on in the Marion County jails and taking corrective action. Apparently not. It would be interesting in seeing how much in campaign contributions the Sheriff, and Mayor Ballard, receive from CCA while continuing to look the other way while CCA mismanages Jail #2. With regard to the Mayor, the answer is $5,000 listed on his 2008 report.


Leslie Sourwine said...

When you follow the money it's not hard to figure out the why of things that goes on in Marion County Jail 2. Even with the money contributed to Anderson and Ballard, Corrections Corporation of America is still in the green with the money they save by not providing critical inmate medical care. You know what the private prison run by the GEO Group does when they have an inmate that needs surgery or critical medical care? They just transfer them to a state run prison but not until after the inmate has been denied medical for more than a year. Gotta collect those dollars and make that profit. Hmm, but wait that must be standard procedure with these private facilities. I recall an inmate who was incarcerated at Marion County Jail 2 that needed surgery and if I recall correctly the nurses at CCA not only made him bandage his own wound but he was also transferred out without the surgery doctors at Wishard said he needed. I also know another inmate who was Spanish speaking that was tasered by one of the guards because he didn’t understand what it was the guard was saying so he didn’t move fast enough for them. Yep, quality service at its best. Where the dollar is more important than the human lives it’s being extracted from.

Baloo said...

I wounder how much this mismanagement will cost Tax Payers in Law Suits??????

Paul K. Ogden said...


CCA has scores of lawsuits against it for its operation of Jail #2 I would be shocked if Barnes & Thornburg does not pull in a million dollar a year representing CCA in those suits. I've asked for this information as an open records request. Even though the public access counselor has previously determined that attorneys fees paid by a private contractor of government services is subject to the open records law, B&T and CCA refuse to disclose those fees. This is despite the fact that the previous PAC ruling in favor of disclosure specifically involved B&T.

Every time CCA gets sued, the Sheriff gets sued since he is supposed to be supervising CCA but doesn't do his job. There is an indemnity provision in the Sheriff's contract with CCA to recoup those attorney's fees and any judgments, but I don't think the Sheriff has ever enforced it.

In fact, at the end of 2007, the Sheriff mysteriously transferred money from one account to another so he could pay CCA nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The Sheriff's representative claimed to the Council that it was to pay for meals at Jail #2 and for an inflation adjustment CCA decided to take. It was a phony explanation. Under the CCA-Sheriff contract, CCA pays for inmate meals, not the Sheriff, and the inflation adjustmnet happens automatically on 1/1. It is not something CCA has to "request."

I have no doubt that the Sheriff paid that money to CCA so CCA could turn around and pay legal fees to Barnes & Thornburg. One of the reasons I asked for open records on B&T fees so I could show to the Council what CCA and the Sheriff did with the quarter million dollars. Maybe I'm wrong about their using the money to pay fees. But they should have provided an honest explanation to the Council rather than make a phony claim that doesn't hold up.

Baloo said...

I used to work in a Jail, however not in Marion County. I am like you with my thinking on what the Money was used for.
I am not big on treating inmates better then victims, but I feel they should be allowed basics. I have witnessed many go without basics in the name of cost savings. I am a fan of Sheriff Joe in AZ even though he has been sued to many times to count, he has corrected when he has lost, and he saves the Tax Payers he serves millions, and has a low recidivism rate compared to other Jails due to him being firm and only providing the basics.

He charges the inmates "rent," for their food, ect. He has chain gangs that keep the County from having to spend money on contractors or employees.

Sheriff Frank should learn from Sheriff Joe.

I would even help fund an inmate at CCA to pursue legal action do to CCA not providing interpreters.

When a Sheriff fails to provide the basics he is only costings Tax Payers money in the long run.