The American Civil Liberties Union, following up on earlier claims of "gross medical abuse" at Nevada's maximum-security Ely State Prison, urged state Prison Board members on Monday to avoid a drawn-out legal battle by agreeing to reforms.
The ACLU, in a letter to Gov. Jim Gibbons, Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, asked for a response to a proposed consent decree by Jan. 22 "in order to avoid protracted litigation."
The three Prison Board members and state Corrections Director Howard Skolnik, who also got the ACLU letter, were scheduled to meet here Tuesday.
Skolnik has said he disagrees with findings in an earlier ACLU report on prison medical care, written by Dr. William Noel, and believes that medical care provided inmates at the Ely prison meets with constitutional requirements.
Noel said in his report that at least one convict at the prison, which houses Nevada's death row inmates, "has already died an unnecessary, slow and agonizing death" and more such deaths and
unnecessary suffering are likely without prompt health care changes
at the prison.
The ACLU's report was based on a review of medical records of 35 prisoners.
Dr. Noel described the treatment as "the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering, that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my 35 years of practice."
Noel said death row inmate Patrick Cavanaugh, was denied insulin for three years, which caused him to develop gangrene that went untreated.
The doctor said medical staffers at the prison "left him to rot to death."
The ACLU has questioned why Cavanaugh was cremated immediately
after death without an autopsy or prior contact with next of kin, and also says there was a second case of immediate cremation after inmate Robert Estabrook died of cancer - despite a family member's
request to be contacted when Estabrook's condition became critical.
Skolnik has said the cremations were in line with procedures that have been in place for years.
He also said that a family member can get an inmate's body, but a written request has to be submitted in advance in cases of convicts with terminal illnesses.