At 59, Regina Watkins is crippled by knee pain. Two years ago, doctors said her left knee needed to be replaced, but the Virginia Department of Corrections didn’t arrange for that procedure.
“I’m in constant pain now,” she says. “I was supposed to have had the left knee done first, because it was worse than the right. Now that I’ve compensated with my good, now the good is just as bad, also causing me pain in my hip .
And, she says, Fluvanna Women’s Prison is lax when it comes to providing prescription drugs.
“I had just returned from a visit to UVA and the gastroenterologist had prescribed me some medication. Two weeks later, I still had not received the medicine. I stopped using my asthma inhalers for three weeks.
Shebri Dillon, 38, who is also locked up in Fluvanna, says some things have improved. Prisoners are no longer charged $5 to see a doctor. Inmates no longer have to queue outside, rain or shine, to get their medication.
When Dillon and I first spoke, dental care was an issue:
“I ended up having to have two teeth extracted because they wouldn’t give me the attention those teeth needed,” she told RadioIQ in 2019. “There’s a mass of people here who have no teeth and have been waiting for teeth for years.”
Now, she says, oral care is good.
“Dental care has improved a lot since the last time I spoke to you. It seems your impact has been profound, and we appreciate it. Dental therapy and physiotherapy are wonderful programs that seem to be running smoothly. people don’t have as many problems.
But the Legal Aid Justice Center, which represents women in Fluvanna, says the prison is failing to deliver on promises it made to a judge six years ago – that it is still failing in five key areas. Attorney Rob Poggenklass told us the inmates were suffering needlessly.
“The compliance monitor in his latest status report indicates that he receives more communication about pain management than any other aspect of care.”
And, he says, medical devices are in short supply.
“When people ask for something like a wrist brace for example, people being able to get a wheelchair, there’s just been an inadequate response to those requests and delays.”
He says the state is failing to meet the special needs of some prisoners.
“When someone has a disability and needs some kind of special treatment – like if they need to be on the bottom bunk for example instead of the top bunk, or if they need some type of Diet is one area where the Department of Corrections has not been in compliance. “
And, prisoners report that Fluvanna is still taking too long to respond to requests for doctor visits and failing to provide adequate care for people with chronic conditions. Dillon fears that the situation will never change.
“The medical settlement agreement has been going on for so long. They continue to be found non-compliant, and there is no accountability,” she says. “There are no consequences for them. Nurses and random people here — they’re laughing, because they’re like, “It’s okay if you tell somebody, because we’re not in trouble.”
The Department of Corrections insists it has fully complied with a consent agreement reached in 2016, but the Legal Aid Justice Center will be back in court this fall – asking a judge to deal with complaints that he raised for the first time in 2012.