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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Lawsuit Alleges Washington Prison System Denies Healthcare To Inmates

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Washington State Department of Corrections

Washington prison inmates who suffer from “serious and painful medical conditions” are often denied adequate healthcare. That’s the allegation contained in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle this week.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Washington inmates who say they’ve suffered from untreated conditions and pain while behind bars.

“Like a hernia that’s very painful or pain in their hand or extremities or issues with their kidneys,” said attorney Merf Ehman. She’s with Columbia Legal Services who filed the suit.

Ehman said Washington’s Department of Corrections uses a healthcare pre-approval system that denies care more than 60 percent of the time. The lawsuit alleges the state routinely violates the constitutional right of inmates to receive adequate healthcare.

In a statement, the DOC says it’s aware of the concerns and is “committed to work collaboratively” to explore “further opportunities” to provide quality healthcare to inmates.