Wellpath

We’ve heard several stories from folks inside about the horrific healthcare they’ve received, even before the pandemic.

Healthcare in the Massachusetts DOC is at an absolute crisis, and incarcerated organizers want to make sure their voices are heard.


Ronald Leftwich

Prisons and jails across the US are failing our communities. Countless incarcerated people in the US are receiving negligent medical care from a for-profit company called Wellpath. This corrupt and deeply negligent medical provider – which is owned by private equity firm H.I.G. Capital – was sued at least 1,395 times in federal court between 2008 to 2018. Locally, horror stories about Wellpath’s negligence are being revealed across the country, from California to North Carolina. Recent reports have exposed Wellpath’s egregious health care services in immigration detention centers, as well as the company’s failure to control COVID-19 outbreaks in incarcerated populations. 

Despite Wellpath’s record, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) has contracted with Wellpath to provide medical care for all people incarcerated in state prisons. In Massachusetts, as elsewhere, Wellpath has subjected incarcerated people – who are unable to receive care elsewhere – to undue suffering and negative health outcomes.

I know this because I’m incarcerated in a state prison in Massachusetts, and I am going blind.

I suffer from severe glaucoma, an eye disease that causes loss of vision. When treated appropriately, vision loss due to glaucoma can be slowed or stopped. Without proper treatment, this illness can cause complete blindness that is irreversible. Because Massachusetts has hired Wellpath, I fear I am on this path.

In July of 2020, an ophthalmologist at Boston Medical Center, growing alarmed by the progression of my glaucoma, scheduled me for immediate corrective eye surgery to prevent further loss of vision. When September arrived, and I still had not heard from Wellpath about the surgery, I began writing letters to Wellpath, asking about the surgery. For months, I received no response. Finally, in November, I began receiving notices stating that the surgery had been scheduled. Yet, when I saw a Wellpath nurse in December, she looked at my record and told me, “I do not see any mention of surgery of any kind.” She promised me that she would look into the matter and get back to me. Several more months passed and I heard nothing. Frustrated and concerned, I wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Corrections asking her to intervene on my behalf and assist me in getting my surgery. I received no response to my letter. 

I then asked a friend in the community to contact the Commissioner’s office. My friend’s call prompted a response and Wellpath finally scheduled my surgery. On June 8th, 2021 – nearly one year after my ophthalmologist called for immediate surgery – I underwent micropulse laser surgery for my glaucoma. 

Many incarcerated people don’t have a friend or family member to advocate on their behalf. I’m not sure my surgery would have ever been scheduled if not for my friend’s call. 

But even after my surgery, I still struggled to get the recovery care I needed. I was refused shades for my windows, even though dark lighting is necessary for recovery. Now, I am waiting on Wellpath to schedule this surgery for my other eye. When I was last brought to an appointment with my ophthalmologist at BMC, she expressed concern at the way Wellpath has continuously pushed back the dates of my appointments.

Due to Wellpath’s negligence, my eyesight has continued to deteriorate in ways that could be prevented by basic treatments. I now take eight prescription medications to control my glaucoma. When I run out of these prescriptions, refilling them is never a certainty. I always let the Wellpath nursing staff know that I need a refill one week prior to running out of these prescriptions. Still, Wellpath rarely refills them on time. Due to this negligence, I often go two to five days without them, despite my best efforts to follow my doctor’s orders. Without consistent access to these medications, I may quickly lose what is left of my vision.  

Sadly, my experience is not unique. There are many cases even more egregious than mine.

This raises many questions. Why has Massachusetts given Wellpath its stamp of approval? Why have they handed responsibility for the health care of thousands of individuals over to a medical provider that is well known for providing negligent care?

If a just and moral society is to be measured by anything, should we not first look to see how that society cares for those who lack the opportunity to care for themselves – those who are sick, elderly, incarcerated or homeless? Should we allow institutions and structures to exist that do not care for these populations, all the while profiting off of them?

Any moral society would call for the immediate removal and abolishment of institutions that did not treat these vulnerable citizens with adequate care and concern. The Massachusetts DOC has an obligation to drop their contract with Wellpath and ensure that incarcerated people in this state receive the medical care they need.


Call to action: support help bring Truth home!

CALL TO ACTION: Join us in writing letters of support for one of our friends and incarcerated organizers, Sean “Truth” Evelyn, for his upcoming parole hearing. Letters of support from the community are important for letting the parole board know that Truth has support outside the walls. Please share this post and comment if you can write a letter!

Below, you can find some facts about himself that Truth has shared with us. You can write whatever you choose, but here are some optional prompts to include in your letter:

  •  How do you know Sean?
  •  If any, what impact has Sean had in your life?
  •  How has Sean changed over the course of his incarceration?
  •  What do you think Sean could offer to the community?
  •  Why do you think Sean should be paroled?
  •  How could you support Sean once released?

By the first week of November, please send your letters to:

Sean Evelyn, W94765
MCI-Norfolk
2 Clark Street, PO Box 43
Norfolk, MA 02056

From Truth:

• Over the course of my incarceration, I’ve maintained consistent employment, and received only three nonviolent, non-drug related disciplinary infractions (with the exception of one fight in the county jail).

• I’ve earned 20+ certificates of completion in programming addressing: anger, violence, trauma, criminal addictive thinking, and emotional awareness. Of all these programs, my participation in the Restorative Justice retreats and subsequent circles from 2016–2019 were by far the most transformative for me. My experiences in those spaces played a pivotal role in my own healing, as well as helping me develop a sense of accountability for my actions and the adverse effect that they’ve had on the community. Through R.J., I was given various opportunities to engage with survivors, district attorneys, and other law enforcement. I’ve also contributed to several R.J. 101 groups with Harvard University, and Brandies University. Those experience had a profound impact on me and my understanding of the responsibility that I have to atone for the harms I’ve cause — both as a survivor of, and responsible party for community violence.

• I spent a good portion of my time in mentor positions in the Second Thoughts at risk youth program from 2012- 2013, and as Project Coordinator on the Young Men’s Committee (YMC) board from 2016–2020. My responsibility as Project Coordinator was to develop and oversee the facilitation of all program curricula, workshops, events, and proposals submitted on behalf of the Committee.

• I’ve engaged in regular civic discourse regarding legislative initiatives and other planning with state officials and community stake holders while serving on the African American Coalition Committee (A.A.C.C.) board of directors from 2017 to present.

• In 2020, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. That same year, I coauthored a study that examined links between exposure to, and perpetration of inner-city violence amongst violent offenders at MCI Norfolk.

• Over the years I’ve developed a passion and marketable talent in the realm of spoken word poetry. Since 2012, I’ve received several awards for my performances in the Norfolk Poetry Group, Young Men’s Committee poetry slams, A.A.C.C. talent competitions, Toastmasters creative expression completions, and have been featured regularly as the entertainment for a wide range of other committee events.

• I’ve done my best to be intentional about using these many years of incarceration as a transformative period in my life. If I am granted parole, I will continue to use the skills, talents, and insights that I’ve developed over the years to honor those I’ve harmed and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I plan on requesting to be paroled to the THRIVE CoSA Communities in Lowell, and to later transition to the greater Boston area.

Hands off: privacy is a human right!

STAND UP FOR INCARCERATED PEOPLE’S PRIVACY! SEND A COMMENT BY 1/29 @ 5 PM! #HandsOffOurMail

Update:

Due to today’s absolute farce of a hearing, the deadline for comments has been extended to today’s absolute farce of a hearing, the deadline for comments has been extended.

Not sure what to do? Our Siblings at Black & Pink MA have broken it down for you in this google doc:

Are you angry? Us too. Send comments to kathleen.richard@state.me.us by 2/5 at 5pm.

https://bit.ly/BPMA-mailregs-TOC


Continue reading “Hands off: privacy is a human right!”

COVID-19 FAQs

On December 9, 2020, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker announced that prisoners were to be included in Phase I of the state’s vaccine rollout plan.

As many of you know, we teamed up with Families for Justice as Healing, the National Council for Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and Black & Pink MA to collect questions from around the country about the new COVID-19 vaccines, including launching a survey to collect questions.

On January 9th, we held a community Town Hall forum on Zoom with nearly 100 community members to hear many of these questions answered by trusted doctors and experts in the field, as well as collect further questions and concerns from free-world family.

As a result, all of these questions were aggregated and put into an FAQ, authored with love by a dozen epidemiologists and physicians, which we will be sending back inside.

Next steps:

We are currently translating the document into multiple languages, which will be uploaded here.

Check back again: deeperthanwater.org/vaccineFAQ

Google Doc: tinyurl.com/COVIDvaxMA

Download PDF: [ English | Portuguese | Spanish | French ]

Phone zap for MCI Shirley – prevent another outbreak!

URGENT! If we push the DOC to act NOW we can prevent another COVID19 outbreak at MCI Shirley! Two incarcerated people reported symptoms to the block nurse on Thursday and were ignored. Our two comrades are self-quarantining in their cell for fear of infecting others.

The system-wide testing planned for Thursday, 11/19 is BEYOND the incubation period for COVID19. The DOC must act NOW!

CALL MCI Shirley NOW:  Suzanne Thibault, Superintendent, (978) 425-4341


→ press 1 for directory,
→ press 9 for Superintendent’s office
→press 6 for Superintendent
→ press 2 for Dept of Programs and Treatment

MA DOC Health Services 508-422-3460

Send an email:

Hi, I’m a concerned [friend/doctor/community member] calling about an emergency. I received a report that two people in Unit F2 displaying COVID19 symptoms requested medical attention and were denied by the block nurse on Thursday. I am very concerned about their health and safety, as I know that prison guards have tested positive at MCI Shirley. Will you ensure

Any and all incarcerated people who report symptoms will receive proper medical attention immediately?

And that these two incarcerated people are tested, provided a daily supply of fresh surgical masks, and treated immediately?

allow them to quarantine without punishment?

if they test positive, that you will conduct contact tracing and test other people who they were in contact with to prevent an outbreak?

Did you call? Please give us a quick report back to help inform next steps!

(optional)
(eg, how did the call go? who did you speak to? did they offer any information?)

Emergency at MCI Norfolk – take action!

Thanks to everyone who called for our family at MCI Norfolk!
We have just received confirmation that 2 prisoners
have been denied medical care by a nurse at MCI Shirley.
Both are showing COVID-19 symptoms, and we need your help again.

We’ve just received word that someone at MCI Norfolk is in desperate need of medical attention. The very person sounding this alarm tested positive for COVID19 this morning. Things are deteriorating fast at MCI Norfolk and we need you to act now!

Please call MCI Norfolk at (508) 660-5900.

Script:

Hello, I am a [friend/doctor/concerned citizen] calling about an emergency we have been informed is happening inside the prison. We heard that someone who is in the quarantine unit is throwing up violently and is not receiving medical attention. Can you confirm that you provide the medical treatment this person needs, including by taking him to a hospital if necessary?

Did you receive an answer? Let us know!

(optional)
(eg, how did the call go? did they offer any information?)

Dispatches from the Pandemic, pt 2: October 2020

As we prepare to head into the winter, with no sign of the COVID19 pandemic abating, cracks in the DOC’s public relations facade are becoming wider and more apparent as even their “infection control” strategies lay bare just how little they understand about controlling a pandemic. Outbreak after outbreak within the Massachusetts DOC has shown that what prisoners and health experts have been saying all along: there’s no such thing as a “safe” prison.

“For those of us that have underlying issues, like myself with asthma, its a big risk. And now the food here has no nutritional value to help build a strong immune system. There’s no prevention. It concerns me heavily and I don’t see the administration having proper PPE. The majority are wearing thin masks or nothing. And they aren’t required to be tested, like the incarcerated population is. My life is on the line”

Since that message, MCI-Norfolk has seen 54 prisoners taken out of their cells and “cohorted” with other exposed prisoners. This isn’t how medical isolation works; when they did this at MCI Framingham the spread of infections spiked. Placing those who may have been exposed with those whose exposure is nearly certain increases the likelihood that all involved will be exposed to the virus. Quarantine efforts like this in the past, which treated all exposed parties as already-infected have lead to mass infections.

Perhaps even more astonishingly than their failed quarantine protocol is the fact that prisoners are being “isolated” in a unit that was closed due to black mold, an environmental pathogen that leads to, of all things, respiratory distress.

Recently, despite clear evidence that the most effective mask strategy is the regular distribution of fresh disposable surgical masks, the DOC astonishingly ordered incarcerated people to start producing cloth masks for their own use. Subsequently, in a combination of brutal austerity and deliberate indifference, the DOC has discontinued the distribution of surgical masks in MA DOC facilities. This comes despite a study from the CDC’s infectious disease journal showing that: “During a pandemic, cloth masks may be the only option available; however, they should be used as a last resort when medical masks and respirators are not available” [ pdf ] About this, another of our comrades inside had this to say:

“We are now required to wear cloth masks manufactured by incarcerated people. Its the same cloth that’s used to make our uniforms. I am more comfortable wearing the surgical masks that most people wear outside the prison. But now, the surgical masks are considered contraband.”

Our sources also highlight the importance of noting that surgical mask distribution ceased two weeks ago, coinciding with the rapid spike in infections following the average incubation period. As the population of Norfolk remains largely static, and following on the revelation that a phlebotomist brought the infection into MCI Shirley, it is widely believed that the MCI Norfolk outbreak was caused by a guard who has now been identified.

This outbreak also leads to important questions about the DOC’s adherence to the decision made in SJC 12926 (and general honesty with the public), which required prompt reporting of infections. The ACLU’s Data for Justice COVID19 tracker shows that the DOC has been slow to share data with the outside world as the plotted numbers lag far behind real-world reports.

At the end of the day, decarceration is, and remains, the only answer. This newest outbreak comes on the heels of a historic decision by the American Public Health Association to ratify a statement endorsing abolition as a necessary public health strategy to address the crisis that is incarceration in the United States. This decision comes after months of COVID19 outbreaks across the country that have shown that which epidemiologists always knew: the only way to prevent the widespread loss of life is, and always has been, to send people home to the communities that love them.

Update: Nov 9, 2020

More repression at Shirley – call to action

Last week, officials from MCI Shirley took everything Wayland “X” Coleman owns in retaliation for his ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of his fellow prisoners.

Anyone who has followed Deeper Than Water for any period of time knows that Wayland is constantly sticking his neck out for people inside while getting moved around from facility to facility; having been shipped from Norfolk to Gardner to Old Colony to Shirley. When, last week, the administration at MCI Shirley confiscated Wayland’s personal belongings, they took every letter, every scrap of paper, every book, his musical equipment and his writing supplies. They even took his typewriter. He’s been given a 30 day notice that his items will be destroyed if they’re not otherwise disposed of, which means he needs folks from the outside to take action urgently.

Over the summer, when Wayland’s Access Corrections tablet battery began to swell to the point of bursting– a known defect in that particular model– the administration used that opportunity to confiscate his tablet saying that “modifying” (which apparently includes removing the battery for a moment to prevent a fire) any item was against DOC policy. Shortly after, he was attacked with chemical weapons for hesitating when they told him he was going to be moved to Old Colony. 

We are asking for the following action items to help send the message that Wayland has people outside who love and support him, and that we’re not buying the DOC’s continuous refrain of “just following orders”:

  1. We are asking that people take 5 minutes to send an email to the DOC commissioner and the superintendent of Shirley, demanding that his items be returned.


Email Commissioner Carol Mici &
Superintendent Michael Rodrigues

  1. Prison officials must respond within 10 days to a physical letter, therefore we are asking that people take a moment to write a letter of protest and put it in the mail. Please find a template below. Letters should be addressed and sent to:

Superintendent Michael Rodrigues
MCI Shirley
P.O. Box 1218
Shirley, MA 01464

  1. If you have some funds to spare, please send Wayland something to read, preferably on abolition. Books can be received from booksellers such as Barnes and Noble or AK Press but not from third party sellers like Amazon.  X is a voracious reader, so please no introductory texts. If you’re not sure what to send, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at jess@deeperthanwater.org.

You can order books to be shipped to:

Wayland Coleman W65484
MCI Shirley
P.O. Box 1218
Shirley, MA 01464

_

Phone Zap for Wayland

On June 3rd, correctional officers came to Wayland Coleman’s cell wearing riot gear and filled his cell with an unknown gaseous chemical weapon that violently burned his lungs, eyes, and skin. In his first hand account of this brutal and horrifying experience, Wayland writes, “It completely shuts your lungs down and it feels like there’s a hole being burned straight through the middle of your chest… On top of all the pain and suffering your body’s going through on the inside, your skin feels like someone doused you with gas and lit a match.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, severe tear gas poisoning — particularly if the gas was released in an enclosed space, as it was in Wayland’s case — can blind or kill people through chemical burns and respiratory failure. This chemical attack happens in the midst of a pandemic of respiratory infection and in the midst of ongoing uprisings across the U.S. against police brutality. In the last week, a federal prisoner died in New York City after guards sprayed him with pepper spray and an Ohio State graduate died after being tear gassed during a protest in Columbus, Ohio.

Please make a call today to demand that the DOC free Wayland and end the use of chemical weapons and solitary confinement. And stay tuned for action items for the rest of the week!

———–

Call the superintendent at Old Colony Correctional Center: (508) 279-6761. If this does not work, this is a good sign, leave a message and then call the main number at 508-279-6000 and ask for ext. 6761

Superintendent, Old Colony Correctional Center: (508) 279-6761

Call script

Hello, 

I am a (friend/concerned community member) calling in response to the human rights violation that happened at NCCI-Gardner on the evening of Wednesday, June 3rd. Correctional officers sprayed Wayland Coleman (W65484) with an unknown chemical weapon before transferring him to solitary confinement at Old Colony Correctional Center. I therefore demand the following actions be taken:

  1. I demand Wayland’s immediate release from solitary confinement.
  2. I demand an end to the use of chemical weapons at Massachusetts correctional facilities, which is a clear violation of human rights and will only hasten the spread of COVID-19 inside Massachusetts prisons
  3. I demand an end to the use of solitary confinement in Massachusetts
  4. I demand all Superintendents and the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections use every available means to release as many people as possible

If the direct number doesn’t work or doesn’t answer, leave a message. This could be a good sign. Once you’re done, call (508) 279-6000 and ask for ext. 6761, or read the call script to whoever you speak to. 

PLEASE REPORT BACK BELOW

(optional)
(eg, how did the call go? did they offer any information?)

Tuesday, 6/9

Are you a doctor, nurse, social worker, public health worker, or healthcare professional? PLEASE MAKE A CALL TODAY and leave a comment below when you’ve called!

CALL SCRIPT:

Superintendent, Old Colony Correctional Center: (508) 279-6000 ext. 6761

Hello, I am a (doctor/public health professional/social worker) calling in response to the human rights violation that happened at NCCI-Gardner on the evening of Wednesday, June 3rd. Correctional officers sprayed Wayland Coleman (W65484) with an unknown chemical weapon before transferring him to solitary confinement at Old Colony Correctional Center. As a health professional, I am highly concerned about the use of chemical weapons and solitary confinement in Massachusetts prisons, both of which have serious health implications and will only hasten the spread of COVID-19. I therefore demand the following actions be taken:

1) I demand Wayland’s immediate release from solitary confinement
2) I demand an end to the use of chemical weapons at Massachusetts correctional facilities
3) I demand an end to the use of solitary confinement in Massachusetts
4) I demand all Superintendents and the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections use every available means to release as many people as possible

Please tell us how your call went below!

Statement from Wayland Coleman on the events of June 3, 2020.

Last night at around 10pm correctional officers approach the cell that I’m held captive in solitary confinement in and said I needed to pack up my stuff because I am being shipped out to Old Colony Correctional Center. I told them that I am refusing this unlawful move do to the fact that I have underlying medical issues, The prison they want to transfer me to has had a Covid-19 and coronavirus outbreak. There are no cases here in Gardner, so due to my health, I will respectfully refuse to move to that unsafe place.

They came back to my cell with riot gear on and gassed me.

Yesterday, my brother Adrian went to the State prison in Garder Massachusetts to do a wellness check on me, (his younger brother) seeing that I had already been in solitary confinement for more than 30 days for feeding other prisoners during this pandemic. He was told by on duty sergeant in the lobby that he was trespassing and needed to leave the property immediately as he radioed in some call over his walkie. Adrian then began leaving the property and was immediately approach by another officer with a Gun on his person. Adrian told that officer that he was here for a wellness check on his brother, that officer also told Adrian to leave the property. The officer with the gun, drove a vehicle to follow Adrian off the property.

Pictures were taken of the sign at the front of the property. See case law M.G.L. c. 266 S123

I finally experienced this new chemical that they’ve developed to spray us with. it’s pretty excruciating. it completely shuts your lungs down and it feels like there’s a hole being burned straight through the middle of your chest. i’ve never coughed so hard in my life. imagine inhaling maybe a half cup of black pepper straight into the lungs, not swallowing but breathing it in through the mouth. the burn and the continuous increase of the pain… that on top of coughing, choking, and spitting up all of the mucus you can handle. the cough is so hard and loud — it’s the hardest cough you’ll ever push out because your body rejects the stuff so violently — and at the end of each violent cough, you’re forced to take a breath in, which causes you to take in another round of gas. your eyes are glued shut because it feels like your eyeballs are being melted into your skull with a torch, so your body doesn’t allow you to open them. on top of all the pain and suffering your body’s going through on the inside, your skin feels like someone doused you with gas and lit a match. that’s what i went through last night.

I don’t understand how that kind of pain works within the so-called rehabilitative environment. it didn’t rehabilitate me or make me respect authority, it just made me angry to see how they wanted to do me harm. i didn’t like the white men in riot gear standing over me, having fun at my expense. but my head’s up, i’m okay and i’m strong. i’m just pissed off.

— Wayland Coleman

In struggle, Wayland "X" Coleman