The horrors behind “sex offender” civil commitment: “Don’t get sick”
By Barbara Koepel . . . For the 6,000 men confined in compounds in the 20 states with civil commitment laws—which keep sex offenders behind bars and out of sight for decades after they complete their prison terms and often until they die—the mantra has got to be “don’t get sick.” (See “Sex Crimes and Criminal Justice”, The Washington Spectator, May, 2018).
If they’re sick, whether with kidney disease, Covid or cancer, medical care is delayed, deficient or denied. It doesn’t matter if the facility is in “blue” states, such as New York, Massachusetts and California, or “red” ones, such as Texas and Virginia. Also, it doesn’t matter if it is run by the state or a private corporation (such as the Management and Training Corporation—MTC).
I interviewed 15 men in Minnesota, Texas and California (one has since died) as well as nurses and therapists who work in these facilities. I’ve also corresponded with men in Massachusetts and New York. All agree the medical care is deplorable and far better in regular prisons—where the men completed their sentences before being sent, indefinitely, into civil commitment.
At Coalinga, California’s civil commitment compound, one resident (we’ll call him Robert to shield his identity) said he “had severe stomach pain, was wetting himself and urinated frequently.” Still, he had to wait over a month to get an appointment at the medical clinic where the nurse practitioner (NP) told him his PSA numbers were high and he should see a specialist. That was in October 2018. But since the men aren’t allowed to book their own appointments, Coalinga must make the referrals. So it wasn’t until February that Robert saw a urologist—whose tests showed he had Stage 3 prostate cancer and needed chemotherapy and radiation immediately. “Still, seven months passed before Coalinga arranged for my treatments, and then, only because the court intervened,” Robert said.
Fast forward to August 2022. Robert saw blood in his urine and the NP said he should see an oncologist; still, it took Coalinga’s clinic five months to write a referral and get him an appointment. “In January 2023, the oncologist said I needed a PET scan to see if the cancer returned—which took Coalinga another four months to arrange. Because the scan, which was in June 2023, showed a new spot on my kidney, the oncologist said to see a urologist right away. It’s now December, and Coalinga hasn’t made the appointment,” he says. His lawyer is seeking a court order to make it happen. . . .
At the Littlefield, Texas civil commitment facility, the medical clinic handled Covid in a way which ensured that many of the 390 inmates would get it. According to Mandi Brady, a security officer and medical assistant at Littlefield from 2018 to 2021, “Covid spread like wildfire every few days. It was the worst in 2021, when at least half the men had it and 12 died.”
Brady says those who tested positive weren’t quarantined from those who tested negative; the clinic didn’t sanitize the examining room between patients; the sick and non-sick were sent back to their rooms, which hold two, four or 14 men. “We passed food trays through their doors and the infected and uninfected ate together in their rooms. Also, they weren’t permitted to do their own laundry. Instead, staff threw their dirty clothes into the same sacks and washed them together,” she adds. . . .
Moose Lake and St. Peter, Minnesota
As in Texas and California, the men in Minnesota’s sex offender program (MSOP) at its two facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter wait months for medical care; nine months is the norm to see an outside doctor. This happens because Moose Lake doesn’t have a full-time in-house doctor. Daniel Wilson, who has a para-legal certificate and has been an inmate for six years, says “besides the long wait, clinic staff don’t tell us the truth about our diagnoses. We can submit something like a FOIA request to see our test results and doctors’ notes, but you have to know how to do it and most of the men don’t.”
Wilson says “one man had abdominal pain and was examined at Essentia (a nearby hospital) in July 2022. The hospital sent his medical records to Moose Lake where the nurse who read them told the inmate ‘nothing was wrong.’ As his pain worsened, he asked Essentia to send him the records directly: they showed he had Stage 5 kidney disease (end-stage renal failure).” . . .