ACLU charges state prison inmates being denied medical care |

ACLU charges state prison inmates being denied medical care

Terming conditions at Ely State Prison’s medical center “shocking and callous,” the American Civil Liberties Union has demanded Gov. Jim Gibbons and the state fix the system.

ACLU officials commissioned Dr. William Noel to review the records of prisoners, saying a large number of them have been complaining they can’t get badly needed medical care.

Noel’s report says he found a “pattern of gross medical abuse at ESP,” which is where Nevada’s most dangerous and death row inmates are housed. He said gravely ill inmates are being denied treatment for painful and potentially fatal medical conditions.

“What is happening at Ely may well be the most horrific example of the denial of basic medical treatment we have ever seen anywhere,” said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project in announcing the report.

“The level of callousness and human suffering revealed in the medical records is stunning, well-documented and almost unbelievable.”

In a letter to the governor, ACLU officials demanded Nevada commit the resources necessary to fix the problems.

Nevada Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said he is reviewing the allegations.

“Should there be any substantive issues identified, we will address them,” he said in a statement.

“I have complete faith in the medical staff of this department and their professionalism. The department provides a constitutional level of care.”

Noel’s report says a diabetic prisoner, Patrick Cavanaugh, was denied insulin for three years, causing gangrene which Noel says prison medical officials refused to treat, “allowing him to rot to death.”

He wrote that another inmate has protopathic nerve pain, which medical officials refuse to treat, leaving him in what Noel described as “a living hell.”

ACLU requested a meeting with Skolnik and Gov. Gibbons to discuss the situation.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.