This message may not apply to all of you who have a loved one in prison, but if it does, it is important.
The DOC has been using a "Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney" form (we don't know for how long) which has been distributed to many inmates. In the form, an inmate can name a person whom he trusts to make important medical decisions on his behalf if he/she is unable to do so, especially in end-of-life situations.
We recently reviewed a copy of the form which was sent to us by an inmate who didn't want to sign it until we reviewed it, and who stated that many inmates on his yard were simply filling out the form, signing it and turning back over to their CO III or IV. He was concerned that his fellow inmates weren't really read the form word-for-word.
The form that was sent to us contained a sentence on the bottom of Page 1 which stated that among the "directions" the inmate was giving in his POA was " . . . that the reasonable expenses for my medical care be assumed by my inmate account or by my estate." THIS IS A COMPLETELY ILLEGAL PROVISION, SINCE -- AS WARDS OF THE STATE -- INMATES ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PAY FOR ANY MEDICAL SERVICES PROVIDED TO THEM (EXCEPTION: CO-PAY FOR A MEDICAL VISIT), AND THEY CERTAINLY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO ALLOW THE MONEY FOR MEDICAL PROCEDURES TO BE DEDUCTED FROM THEIR INMATE SPENDABLE, RETENTION OR ANY OTHER ACCOUNT. CLEARLY, THEIR "ESTATE" DOES NOT ASSUME ANY DEBTS FROM THE PRISON, INCLUDING FOR MEDICAL CARE OR SERVICES, IF THEY DIE. EVER.
Once we read this statement, we immediately contacted DOC and demanded that they retract the statement from their form. They agreed to do so, stating "It must have been an oversight; that sentence should not have been included in the form," and have also indicated that new forms will be printed.
However, we are concerned that the DOC will not diligently retract ALL the forms that may previously have been signed by inmates with the offending language contained. We've asked their General Counsel to assure us that a procedure will be put into place to have CO's call each inmate into the office and have them rip up the old form and allow the inmate to sign off on the new form. No assurances have been forthcoming that this will happen. We are advised that "the revised/corrected form is on the Internet" (we couldn't locate it), but -- of course -- inmates have no access to the Internet.
If your loved one has signed one of these old forms, he should visit his CO III or IV immediately and retract the form if it contains the above-referenced sentence. He/she is entitled to fill out the NEW/CORRECTED form and to have a copy of the fully executed form to send to whomever he/she names as his Healthcare POA. No one should sign the form unless they are assured that they may have a photocopy of the executed form.
We hope that you will download a copy of this email and send it into the prison to as many individual prisoners as possible. Multiple copies cannot be sent to one prisoner for handing out to many prisoners. Ask your lived one to give you the names and DOC # of five or ten of the people in his/her unit so that you can individually sent this email to each one.
Also, on a somewhat related issue, at the same time the POA forms were handed out, the DOC also handed out an ORANGE COLORED "Do Not Resuscitate" form. State law requires that all "DNR" forms be printed on orange paper. If an inmate signs it, this means that he/she is giving permission to DOC to avoid providing any extraordinary life-saving measures in the event of emergencies or life-threatening conditions. We recommend that no inmate should sign such a form. Even in the case of life-threatening illness or emergency, we would not trust the DOC to make those sorts of decisions about care that are in the best interests of the inmate in all cases. Hence, an inmate with serious injury or illness who has signed off on a Healthcare POA, which names someone he trusts to make decisions if he can't do so, can allow his POA to make all those decisions, including, if applicable, end-of-life decisions. But it will be someone who KNOWS the prisoner personally, rather than an impersonal (and perhaps too hasty) decision by a DOC Director. This is not legal advice; it is merely our opinion.
With the above opinion in mind, please be aware that in May 2009 when Marcia Powell was broiled in the hot sun in an outdoor metal cage, without water or bathroom breaks, and finally collapsed into a coma, she was taken to a hospital. The DOC, having quickly determined that there was "no next of kin" listed in her paperwork, decided to turn off her life-support within just a few hours of her arrival at the hospital. It turns out that she had been appointed a Guardian by the State of Arizona, a person who had actually visited Marcia at least once while she was in prison, and THAT person should have been the one to make the decision about turning off life support. To us, even though the situation with Marcia was grave, it seemed that things just moved a little too fast when DOC thought they were in charge of making the decision . . .
None of us ever likes to think about something terrible happening to a loved one in prison. However, the above information will put prisoner's families more in the driver's seat should such a thing happen.
Please encourage your loved one to ALWAYS read every word of every contract or document BEFORE signing it. That goes for Plea Agreements, which are contracts, too!
Middle Ground continues to be a champion for protecting the rights of prisoners and their loved ones.
Donna Leone (Hamm)
Criminal Justice Consultant
Executive Director - Middle Ground Prison Reform
MIDDLE GROUND HAS BEEN ARIZONA'S PREMIER CHAMPION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE INCARCERATED SINCE 1983