Thursday, March 03, 2005

Skolnick‘s revenge

That prisoners in America receive terrible health care should be shocking but it shouldn’t be a surprise.
March 3, 2005

On Sunday, the New York Times began a series on how merely going to jail could be a death sentence because of the quality of medical care prisoners receive in New York state. For several prisoners, it was, largely because prisoner health had been privatized in New York just as it had in many other states. The story, by Paul von Zielbauer, centered on one company, Prison Health Services. Readers of the story may have been surprised to read all the gory details, and that’s too bad because the state of prison medical care is no secret. Forget about what kind of doctors take jobs in prisons. In 1998, science writer Andrew Skolnick and reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, using Skolnick’s grant from the Rosalynn Carter Felllowship in Mental Health Journalism, wrote about another company’s services in several states’ prisons, every bit as ghastly. The series appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It won all kinds of awards, but when the company, Correctional Medical Services, threatened to sue JAMA, the journal, in an astounding act of unvarnished cowardice, fired Skolnick. It took almost a new generation of science writers before JAMA’s news section regained its reputation. The company did pay a settlement on his civil suit, but his career has never actually recovered. Skolnick himself told Harpers Magazine a few years ago, the result of his story was legislation in Missouri protecting the company and making matters worse. Maybe he feels better now.


Anonymous said...

Actually, by putting the author's last name into the NYTimes search engine, I found the three articles in the series. They'll disappear into the paid archives two weeks after publication, though.

Joel Shurkin said...

I tried it three times and was told the page was down. Probably a glitch in the Times’ site. I fixed it. Thanks for telling me.