The UCLA Medical Center it is not, but ten of the Louisiana Department of Corrections’ 12 physicians — including six medical directors and two assistant medical directors — have had their medical licenses restricted or suspended. Several were disciplined for illegally distributing drugs, two committed fraud, one engaged in sexual misconduct, and another former medical director pled guilty to possession of child pornography, according to Buzzfeed.
Helming the state’s prison hospital wards are medical professionals tasked with taking care of people who cannot choose their doctors and live in conditions that often lead to health problems. But at least three Louisiana doctors began working in the state’s prisons before their licenses were fully restored, and one, the medical director at Rayburn Correctional Center, is currently still working with a restricted license, even though the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the American College of Correctional Physicians (formerly the Society of Correctional Physicians) oppose the practice of hiring physicians with license restrictions.
“The doctors they hired there are there serving a sentence of their own,” said a man recently released from Angola, who requested anonymity to protect his privacy as he transitions back into the outside world.
Doctors with disciplinary records have often clustered at prisons in the state because of a loophole: The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners allows physicians barred from practicing medicine in most hospitals to work in certain “institutional” settings, such as prisons.
In response to questions from BuzzFeed News, the Louisiana Department of Corrections leaned on that exception. In order for doctors to be considered for jobs in prisons, a department spokesperson said in an email, “their licensing status must meet the Louisiana Medical Boards’ standards for working in a correctional setting.” He said that the doctors employed by the state provide “professional and responsive care” to people incarcerated in the prisons.
But under their care, a culture of medical neglect has flourished, according to interviews with two men who were previously incarcerated at Angola, a Tulane University doctor who frequently sees patients from Louisiana prisons, a lawyer who has represented many clients in prisons in the state, and the three correctional medicine experts who conducted a comprehensive review of Angola’s medical practices in 2016 as part of a lawsuit against the prison.
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