Continuing Problems at Fluvanna Women’s Prison
Shannon Ellis, Attorney
Legal Aid Justice Center
WOMAN PRISONER AT FLUVANNA SEEKS RELIEF FROM LIFE-THREATENING MEDICATION FAILURES
Charlottesville, Va., April 30, 2019 — A woman incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW) filed a motion today in federal court seeking relief from the prison’s repeated, life-threatening mismanagement of her medication. Ms. Margie Ryder, 39, suffers from terminal pulmonary arterial hypertension and is dependent for her survival upon appropriate administration of a powerful medication continuously delivered to her heart through a pump. Over the past year, Ms. Ryder has been repeatedly hospitalized due to FCCW’s failure to appropriately provide this medication. The motion filed today describes the daily fear Ms. Ryder suffers, wondering each time she receives her medication whether FCCW’s next mistake will be the one that kills her.
Under the terms of the Scott v. Clarke class action Settlement Agreement approved by a federal judge in 2016, FCCW is obligated to provide medications in a “timely, safe, and sufficient manner.” In January 2019, the federal court overseeing the Scott case ruled that FCCW had failed to comply with this requirement, as well as numerous other provisions of the Settlement Agreement. After hearing evidence in a weeklong enforcement trial, the Court concluded that FCCW had failed to appropriately and timely supply, distribute, and administer medications, and that this failure was of such a broad, systemic nature that the prison’s repeated dangerous medication mistakes were “hardly surprising.” Among other remedies, the Court ordered FCCW to conduct extensive re-training of the nurses employed at the prison and to develop a new protocol ensuring that patients had access to appropriate medical care. Unfortunately, the need for today’s motion makes it clear that—months later—FCCW’s medication failures continue, seriously endangering the lives of women like Ms. Ryder.
“My sentence was to serve a period of time, not to die,” said Ms. Ryder. “I desperately want to make it through the rest of my sentence so that I can be released back to my family before my time comes.”
“Ms. Ryder’s suffering is a direct result of the Department of Corrections’ ongoing failure to adequately address long-standing, well-known problems at FCCW,” said Shannon Ellis, an attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center and co-counsel for the Plaintiff prisoners. “Failures in funding, failures in staffing, and a fundamental culture of disrespect and disregard for prisoner patients fuel a dysfunctional system that results in tragedy.”
Today’s motion, filed by lawyers at the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), Wiley Rein LLP, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee (WLC), asks the Court to order DOC to develop and implement a plan to safely administer Ms. Ryder’s medications, including ensuring appropriate nurse training and oversight. It also seeks to open lines of communication at the prison between the medical staff and the plaintiff attorneys to ensure that future situations like Ms. Ryder’s can be addressed as quickly and cooperatively as possible.
About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.
About Wiley Rein
Wiley Rein LLP is a leading law firm located in Washington, DC, where it is a dominant presence with more than 270 attorneys and public policy advisors. Wiley Rein has earned international prominence by representing clients in complex, high-stakes regulatory, litigation, and transactional matters.
About The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
From its inception in 1968, the mission of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has been to mobilize the resources of the private bar to address issues of civil rights violations and poverty in our community. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee provides pro bono representation in a broad range of civil rights and related poverty issues impacting every group protected by our federal, state and local civil rights laws.