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January 31, 2007

Alleged rape victim denied EC in prison

A 21-year-old Tampa woman was handcuffed, jailed, and denied medical treatment when she tried to report her rape to the police.

As police assisted her, taking her to a nurse examiner's clinic, and processing her report, an officer found two outstanding warrants for the woman in Sarasota County.

Attorney Virlyn "Vic" Moore III of Venice said his client was seated in the front seat of the police cruiser, on her way to the scene of her attack when the officer learned of the warrant, cuffed her and placed her in the back seat.

"To stop the rape investigation and instead victimize her again," Moore said. "I'm aghast, astonished and outraged. I have never, ever heard of this happening."

The officer arrested the woman at a sergeant's instruction, McElroy said.

The student had failed to pay $4,585 restitution after a 2003 juvenile arrest, McElroy said. Moore said his client is convinced that she paid the fine and that the warrant was probably the result of a clerical error. [SPT]

Happily, in light of this incident the Tampa police department has changed its policy regarding victims of violence with outstanding warrants:

The police department has changed its policy so that a person is treated as a victim first and foremost; the department would deal at a later date with the criminal offense this person is accused of. [ABC]

This is a really important concession by the Tampa PD and they deserve to be praised for their quick action. Policies like these will help the most vulnerable members of society seek out the protection of police without immediate fear of being arrested.

The biggest travesty is that some religious nut case took it upon themselves to overrule a doctor's prescription for emergency contraception.

Michael Hussey reports that the woman who refused to administer the second dose of emergency contraception is an employee of the private contractor Armor Correctional Health Services, she has retained a lawyer.


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"Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. is a physician-owned company that provides comprehensive medical..."

No, Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. is a physician-owned company which denied Emergency Contraception to a rape victim.

The healthcare worker who refused this rape victim her second dose of EC says (through her lawyer) that her religious views didn't enter into this decision at all, it was because she is not allowed to give medication without specific orders, and she apparently didn't have them for this particular inmate.

I find it difficult to believe that that this rape victim is the first person to ever show up in the jail requiring medication that needs to be administered in a timely fashion. Every correctional facility I've ever heard of has intake procedures for inmates which include asking the inmate if they are under a doctor's care and if they are on medication. If the inmate says they are, it is the duty of the jail staff to obtain the necessary medication and the necessary orders to administer it.

This all seems very fishy. At the very least, someone didn't do his or her job. Unfortunately this wouldn't be the first time I've heard a horror story regarding subcontracted healthcare services in detention settings.

Assuming that the health care worker did nothing wrong because she lacked authorization, the rape victim can still sue Armor Correctional Health Services for not having someone there with the authority to write a prescription.

Isn't EC an over-the-counter medication now? And if that's the case, then the health care worker didn't need the ability to write out a perscription for it. I suspect that this worker did refuse the request for religous reasons and is running for cover now that the story is national news.

Kafka is starting to read like Little Golden Books these days, you know what I mean?

TPD spokeswoman Laura McElroy contradicts the health care worker's story.

The woman's attorney said a jail nurse refused to give the medication because of religious objections. On Tuesday, the nurse's attorney said she refused not because of religious objections but because dispensing medication that is not listed on a medical chart violates protocol.

McElroy, the police spokeswoman, said Tampa police Officer Lisa Cordero told several jail employees about the woman's situation and specifically told them she needed the medication.

The rape victim arrived at the jail after having been dispensed EC at the nurse examiner's clinic during her rape exam. She was administered the first dose there. EC comes in a packet with two pills in it. One is taken immediately, the other 12 hours later. So the victim presumably had the packet with the remaining pill with her when she was taken to the jail. This was probably confiscated from her, as are all personal possessions during the booking procedure.

Detention facilities typically will not allow an inmate to keep any medication, prescription or nonprescription, on their person. (And yes, EC is now available without a prescription for women 18 and older.) Typically in any detention facility there has to be an order by someone in charge -- usually a physician -- for an inmate to be given ANY medication, even an aspirin.

So what did happen? Why wasn't she given this second pill? Did he healthcare worker request an order for the medication so she could dispense it to the victim, and nobody ever approved it? Did the healthcare worker neglect to request an order? Refuse to request an order? Did the healthcare worker have a valid order for the medication but refuse to give it to the victim?

The denial of the morning after pill was unconscionable. And if (its not clear from the only one of the two articles that isn't a dead link) the investigation was actually stopped in a way that risked losing evidence, that was unconscionable as well.

But are we actually suggesting it was wrong to jail her? How far do we want to go with this? What sort of policy would allow us to sort out when to jail or not jail wanted felons out of concern for the willingness of other felons to come to the police when they are victimized by crime? Would we have some sort of sorting mechanism, so that someone wanted for failure to pay a fine would be released, but where someone wanted for armed robbery would not? Would we arrest her at some later date? Or would the police just have to ignore the fact that warrants were out for her arrest until the completion of the trial?

I think that's going to be unworkable. The better solution is probably to investigate her report like any other, and treat it with the gravity it is due, while also informing her that she needs to take care of her own business as well. Other alternatives seem unworkable.

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