Monday, February 28, 2005

Journalism yet lives: The NYT exposes negligent care of prisoners

The New York Times > New York Region > Private Health Care in Jails Can Be a Death Sentence

This is old-style journalism, by Paul von Zielbauer and the NYT. There's still something left in our newspapers. It's a LONG article, an expose on the consequences of outsourcing the care of very vulnerable and often despised people to a for-profit corporation:
...In these two harrowing deaths, state investigators concluded, the culprit was a for-profit corporation, Prison Health Services, that had moved aggressively into New York State in the last decade, winning jail contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with an enticing sales pitch: Take the messy and expensive job of providing medical care from overmatched government officials, and give it to an experienced nationwide outfit that could recruit doctors, battle lawsuits and keep costs down.

A yearlong examination of Prison Health by The New York Times reveals repeated instances of medical care that has been flawed and sometimes lethal. The company's performance around the nation has provoked criticism from judges and sheriffs, lawsuits from inmates' families and whistle-blowers, and condemnations by federal, state and local authorities. The company has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements...
It's a long article, too long for most of us to read in these harried times. View it in full page and scan the middle.

Even if you don't care about prisoners (who does these days?), the lessons apply whenever a vulnerable population (nursing home, indigent, cognitively impaired, psychiatric, the poor, prisoners) has their care managed by a for-profit consolidated entity. In the absence of the human safeguards of intimacy, in the absence of powerful regulation and observation, driven by the ferocious natural selection of the marketplace, these entities will inevitably morph into a machine for disposing of the inconvenient. It is a progression as certain as the arc of a thrown rock.

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