- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Audit Calls for Improved Oversight of Inmate Healthcare and Reentry Services at Department of Correction
Boston — In an audit released today, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump revealed the state’s Department of Correction (DOC) did not always provide inmates with requested healthcare services within required timeframes. Further, the audit shows DOC could not show all inmates received Individual Reentry Plans (IRPs) or that necessary medical appointments were scheduled before their release. The audit notes that these deficiencies could lead to inmate health issues worsening, jeopardize the physical or mental health of inmates upon their release, and expose DOC to legal risk. The audit examined the period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018.
Healthcare services at DOC facilities are provided by a third-party vendor. Shortly after the audit period ended, DOC changed healthcare vendors.
“Inmates have a right to timely health services while incarcerated, and we all have a vested interest in their successful reentry into society. It’s concerning that the Department of Correction’s lax oversight in these areas may have negatively affected inmate treatment and rehabilitation,” Bump said of the audit. “I commend DOC for taking these findings seriously, and hope this audit helps its new healthcare vendor better provide services to inmates.”
Bump’s office found that Sick Call Request Forms (SCRFs), which inmates use to request medical services, were often not processed or screened within the required timeframe of 24 hours (72 hours on weekends), and it could not be demonstrated that an inmate was seen by a qualified healthcare professional within seven days.
The audit found in many cases DOC could not show IRPs were reviewed with and provided to inmates before their release. These plans address post-release housing, eligibility for MassHealth, employment opportunities, community resources, and issues related to physical or mental health services. Additionally, auditors found no evidence that needed post-release medical appointments were scheduled for several inmates.
In its response to these findings, DOC reported it is taking steps to improve oversight of its inmate sick call request process, and enhance staff management and training for reentry services.
The audit also examined women’s specific healthcare services related to pregnancy and annual preventative examinations. Bump found no deficiencies in this area, but notes that a mold infestation at MCI-Framingham prevented her office from accessing some female inmate’s medical files, and warns these files may have shown additional issues.
DOC is responsible for operating the state’s prison system. As of June 2018, the agency oversaw 8,741 inmates housed in 16 correctional facilities across the Commonwealth. The agency had 4,600 employees and in fiscal year 2018 received $645,035,000 in state appropriations.