Federal Judge Rules Against Idaho In Prison Health Care Case

Aug 12, 2015

Credit Sadie Babits / Boise State Public Radio

A federal judge has sanctioned Idaho for misleading the court about medical and mental health care for inmates.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge David Carter means that the Idaho Department of Correction will remain under the court's supervision until at least the fall of 2017.

The health care legal battle between inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution and the state has been happening for more than three decades.

But new allegations surfaced this year - the accusations include destroying, altering or falsifying prisoner medical records. The state is also accused of deceiving a special investigator whose job it is to keep the state in line with past rulings in the case.

Boise Weekly reporter George Prentice has been following the case and says it all stems out of a lawsuit that dates back to 1981.

“The Balla v. Idaho lawsuit goes back to the early 1980s. It’s still an open suit in federal court,” says Prentice.

Allegations also included moving prisoners from the behavioral health unit into the general population so they would not have access to a special court-ordered investigation.

The judge believed the allegations from prisoners and caregivers at the prison.

“Quite simply, he said ‘shame on you’ to the state of Idaho. He hit the state with sanctions,” says Prentice.

The judge reset the clock for two years of more oversight. The Department of Correction thought it was halfway through a previous period of oversight. Now they must start over. The judge said IDOC “misled the court.”

The judge also said the state of Idaho must cover the plaintiff's attorney's fees.

Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf said he is disappointed by the ruling, and said the department will do everything in its power to resolve the lawsuit.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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