By Jack Thorton

On January 18 The Idaho Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee unanimously approved about 3 million dollars to provide much needed treatment for inmates with severe liver disease due to hepatitis C exposure.  Nearly 30 percent of Idaho’s prison population is infected with hepatitis C according to Idaho Department of Corrections, which to CDC standards, could easily be considered epidemic.

Senator Jeff Agenbroad from Nampa Idaho commented that “This is a lot of money that none of us would like to spend but unfortunately it’s a necessary expense.”

However this 3 million dollar budget approval is anything but proactive.  This budget approval comes in response to a Class Action Lawsuit filed earlier in US District Court by Philip Turney.  Turney claims scores of inmates who have been desperately requesting treatment have died in prison due to Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) deliberate negligence.

“Men who urgently needed Hepatitis-C (HCV) treatment, but for deliberate negligence, never received it. Unfortunately they are now deceased as a direct consequence of IDOC / Corizon’s “little house of horrors.” says Turney.

“It is abundantly clear why; IDOC contracts out their medical care of prisoners’ so they have someone else to blame for the heinous and atrocious outcomes. Taxpayer funded, affirmative defenses, for medical malpractice and wrongful deaths. All of which is foreseeable, calculated, and intentional.”

For instance, Kevin Sagiao – inmate #18333, died in 2015 from liver failure due to Hepatitis-C. He suffered for years while correctional medical staff kept telling him his symptoms “were not yet advanced enough to justify treatment”.

Robert Jones, #17432 died much in the same manner.  After being denied parole release or any form of real medical treatment died from complete liver failure.

Although many inmates contracted HCV before being incarcerated, many are contracting it while in prison.  With 30% of Idaho’s prison population infected, the disease is all around you.

For instance Randal Bloom, #20481 contracted HCV while in IDOC custody.  Corizon’s medical staff’s  according to Turney “deliberate indifference” has led to his condition progressing to stage 4 liver disease (cirrhosis).  If his condition is not reversed in short order, the liver scaring will be beyond treatment and nothing but a liver transplant will save his life.

Kerry Burgess, George Bowman, Robert Jones and many other inmates all are believed to have died in custody due to HCV infections obtained while in prison and whom the department failed and/or refused to provide essential medicine, due to reasons of cost or convenience.

“If you contract HCV and have any length in your stay, it is a virtual death sentence” claimed one inmate.

Although the $3 million of increased funds shows that Turney has the attention of lawmakers, he believes more funds are not necessary.

“There’s enough money in the IDOC, but they’d rather deny parole eligible candidates, deny appropriate medical, and then to sign “brother-in-law contracts” to out of state private entities, like the CCA / Core Civic debacle, and this current shipment of 1,000 men out of state to a Texas prison, operated by Geo Group.

“The result, is zero accountability to taxpayers for outcomes driven by incompetence and IDOC’s hidden agenda. Its a revenue racket- no two ways about it. Ask them for current numbers on who is serving prison time above and beyond the fixed terms of their sentence … and you’ll get a diatribe of excuses why the status quo is the only way.”

Although the State of Idaho has one of the highest incarceration rates per crime rate in the nation and is planning to ship at least 1,000 inmates out of state due to overcrowding, no plans are being made to change its probation eligibility policies.