[Feb. 27th, 2005|01:54 pm]

This morning’s letter to my Texas state representative.

Dear Representative Dukes:

Upon reading this morning’s (Sunday, Feb. 27) copy of The New York Times’ headline story “As Health Care in Jails Goes Private, 10 Days Can Be a Death Sentence,” I was made to contemplate the moral difference between companies that negligently and uncaringly (and, often, unaccountably) kill American citizens each day and individual citizens who commit the same crime. (The article can be found online at:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/27/nyregion/27jail.html.)

Individuals who commit strings of murders or somehow profit off the preventable deaths of others are called serial killers. They are abhorred by society and locked up in maximum-security prisons or executed. Companies, however, while given the rights of individual citizens in many legal areas, are rarely held accountable for the criminal acts they take in the pursuit of profit. Companies, as such, cannot be jailed or executed. They can be sanctioned, but, as The New York Times piece shows, those sanctions are often abrogated by the necessities of market economies. Thus, more powerful and specific legislation may be in order to effectively punish corporations for actions that we, as a society, would likewise condemn in individual citizens.

Prison Health Services and its affiliated companies provide an excellent opportunity to make an example of a company that has shown a blatant disregard for the health and safety of American citizens and to form the framework for dealing with future unconscionable conduct by corporations.

As The New York Times story reports, Prison Health Services has been implicated in the deaths of a staggering number of prison inmates and innocents. The vast majority of the cases involve corporate cost-cutting measures that fail to provide even the most basic of medical services to the prison populations the company is charged with serving. In one case, a newborn baby died due to delays in contacting emergency authorities and the Prison Health Service-employed nurse’s refusal to aid prison guards in trying to save the baby. In other cases, men and women taken off their privately prescribed medication have died from well known illnesses that could have easily been prevented had Prison Health Services’ incompetent doctors and nurses administered basic doses of pills and other medical services. As one Prison Health Services nurse was noted as saying, “We save money because we skip the ambulance and bring them right to the morgue.”

Such conduct is not permitted in civil society and should not be allowed in the corporate world. Businesses are an important part of American civil life. They provide the basis for much of American freedom, choice and happiness. When organizations disregard the health and safety of the citizens they serve, when organizations negligently, unaccountably and regularly kill American citizens, they must be treated as what they are: serial killers.

I propose specific sanctions against Prison Health Services, its founders, managers, executives and directors and its affiliated organizations. I propose that you author and support a bill that would bar the above individuals and organizations from operating in the state of Texas. This move would have minimal financial effect on the company, as it appears to only operate in one prison in Texas. But it would be a great moral statement. It would proclaim to Texans and other Americans that the state of Texas is committed to preventing deaths at the hands of corporations. It would once again point out the value of human life. Furthermore, it would provide the framework for applying sanctions to other such businesses — should they exist now or in the future — that operate as if they may freely dispose of human life in pursuit of their own goals.

I look forward to hearing your comments on this matter, and I urge you to take action on it.

Thanks in advance for your consideration and help.

Your constituent,

William O. Pate II

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