BEYOND BARS: Despite Complaints, Women at Virginia Prison Continue to Plead for Adequate Medical Care

By Chanell Burnette
Troy, VA

My name is Chanell Burnette and I am currently an offender at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW). I write to you in regards to the inadequate medical care that we women are receiving here at FCCW. I have been housed at this facility since 2006 and am aware of the class action lawsuit filed against FCCW, and to date have seen no improvement in the quality of care that we have been receiving. For some of us, this has only gotten worse. I, for one, can validate this claim.

Many of us suffer from chronic and debilitating conditions that are not being treated properly. Some of us experience severe pain and are not being administered adequate pain management. The doctors are minimizing our complaints regarding our pain levels. They are misdiagnosing our conditions and withholding vital information that could prevent detrimental effects on our health, or even, as seen in numerous cases, our deaths.

This facility contracts with the healthcare provider Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. This corporation has failed us continuously and has contributed to the loss of lives of countless women here at this institution. Too many of them have met their untimely demise due to the negligence of medical staff members. Can you fathom having to make the call to a family member to inform them that their loved one has died inside of these cold, lonely walls? All because someone did not care enough to take the time to listen and render the help that was needed.

In addition to the class action lawsuit, several civil suits are pending as a result of the negligence and treatment that continues to occur here at this institution. This facility has been the subject of numerous television news reports. FCCW has been in a negative limelight for a number of years.

To represent our concerns, a Compliance Monitor was elected, Nicholas Scharff, MD. He reports directly to the Department of Corrections. Dr. Scharff visits the institution regularly to note our questions and concerns. However, I have yet to hear of any responses to the questions voiced at the forums we attend.

I was informed that Dr. Scharff rates each institution by the number of letters of complaint he receives. His last rating for this institution FCCW was high. This concerned me, so I sent him a letter informing him that he does not receive any letters of complaint because he does nothing to help us. I have yet to hear a response from that letter.

I submit this on behalf of the women suffering in this institution. I am only one, but I feel that our voices need to be heard. We are human beings before we are offenders and should be treated as equal. Should we not be offered the same healthcare as someone who has not made a mistake? None of us are perfect, and this should be kept in the forefront of the minds of those who took an oath to care for us. ■