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Settlement Brings New Hope to Diabetic Inmates

A lawsuit on behalf of imprisoned diabetics ensures a constitutional level of care.

Dec. 10, 2003 -- On the morning of April 5, 2003, a diabetic inmate in an Alabama prison began having seizure-like convulsions due to low blood sugar. Though an officer was immediately called, he convulsed for 45 minutes before being taken to the health care unit. This was a frequent occurrence, yet at that time he had never been evaluated by a prison doctor to determine the best way to control his blood sugar.

He is just one of the 2,000 Alabama prisoners who will benefit from the November settlement of the Center's Gaddis v. Campbell suit against the Alabama Department of Corrections over substandard medical care provided to diabetic inmates.

Before the lawsuit, medical care provided to Alabama inmates with diabetes was horribly inadequate. The medical contractor hired by the Department of Corrections failed to promptly diagnose inmates with diabetes, adequately monitor blood sugar levels, treat injuries or infections, or administer necessary tests to evaluate whether the disease was causing other problems.

Due to this lack of care, some inmates have had toes amputated and experienced loss in vision. They were also at a greater risk for kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and even death.

"This settlement will literally save lives," said Center legal director Rhonda Brownstein. "It's bringing the Department of Corrections into the 21st century in terms of treating diabetes."

Alabama prisons have already begun implementing changes to meet the standards set by the American Diabetes Association. The Center will closely monitor the Department of Corrections' progress in complying with the terms of the settlement agreement.

"Things are truly looking up," one inmate said in a letter thanking Brownstein for her work. "Your help has been invaluable to all of us, and I am eternally grateful."