DOC faces class action lawsuit for withholding prescriptions

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 9:56 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A new class action lawsuit against the Department of Corrections is pointing to a 2012 court order that was written to ensure those in prison receive prescriptions. The order also says that anyone who modifies medications has certain credentials.

One wife of an inmate and an attorney both claim that inmates are facing the withholding of critical prescriptions.

Alex is grateful for her husband, and they plan for the future. But for now, he lives in the penitentiary. She’s agreed to an interview without being identified out of fear of retaliation. Alex believes her husband is not receiving his prescriptions, some of them lifesaving.

“He’s my best friend. We talked about having a porch,” said Alex, “He’s supposed to be taking blood pressure medication. He has not received that medication since February.”

Correctional officers tell of the same thing happening at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield. Those same allegations are resulting in a class action lawsuit, just filed regarding the women’s prison in Pierre.

Attorney Jim Leach has evidence of an inmate bringing prescriptions and letters from the Mayo Clinic and Sanford.

“She actually took her medications with her to the prison in their prescription pill bottles. The prison just cut off many of them instantly without explanation,” explained Leach.

She reports some prescriptions have started, and some are being tapered, but the DOC refuses to tell her which prescriptions she is or is not being given.

This practice appears to directly violate court action over a decade ago.

“According to all the evidence I have is now doing exactly what they had promised and was ordered in 2012 not to do anymore, which is refusing to give prisoners their medications,” said Leach.

His client having multiple sclerosis doesn’t appear to be the issue.

“From everything I can see, prison doesn’t have anything against my client,” said Leach. “That’s just how they do business every day.”

Meanwhile, Alex is advocating for her husband and others at the penitentiary. Alex doesn’t think a prison sentence includes the withholding of lifesaving prescriptions.

“He’s doing his time; others are doing their time,” said Alex.

“They still have the right to be treated with human dignity as human beings,” expressed Leach. “And one of those basic rights is that if you go under prison and the doctors prescribe you medication, you will be allowed to continue taking that medication.”

We have asked the DOC for a statement or interview regarding the lawsuit. We also asked who is the ultimate authority for changing medications in state prisons. We are still waiting for a response.