A federal judge has ordered federal oversight of inmate healthcare at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the Advocate reports. In a 104-page opinion issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick described inmates dying of preventable diseases and suffering pain from treatable illnesses while staff refused treatment or ignored symptoms. "The human cost...is unspeakable," Dick wrote. "The finding is that the 'care' is not care at all, but abhorrent cruel and unusual punishment that violates the United States Constitution." The federal court will appoint three "special masters" to develop remedial plans to address the violations and monitor whether they are being followed, Dick ordered. Angola has a long history of federal oversight. In 1971 a special master was appointed to address prison conditions, and a 1984 lawsuit led to the prison entering into a consent decree to address mental health care at the facility.
Ken Pastorick, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, said that the prison’s healthcare has improved since 2015, when the lawsuit was filed, and that the agency disagrees with Dick’s ruling. He said they plan to appeal. "As evidenced by the recent 2020 pandemic, LSP has managed the healthcare and treatment of its population efficiently and effectively when compared to the community in general," Pastorick said. "The court has refused to even consider current conditions at the facility in rendering its opinion.” But Mercedes Montagnes, who was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs at the time of trial, said Dick’s opinion “underscores the value in every life and holds our state accountable for its failure to protect patients."