by Carissa Wolf
The Idaho Department of Correction responded Monday to a damaging court report detailing substandard inmate health care at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise.
The report had been sealed under concerns from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office that its release could cause “unjustified public scandal.” But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill unsealed the report late last week, saying the public’s right to know outweighed the state’s concern.
The Associated Press reported that state attorneys argued the report should stay under wraps until all parties had a chance to contest the report’s findings. Attorneys representing Idaho inmates said any potential embarrassment the report may cause the state doesn’t justify a veil of secrecy.
The Idaho Department of Correction originally vowed to keep a tight lip about the release of the report or its contents.
“I don’t expect that the director will be making any comments,” Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said last week. “It’s best that these matters be heard in court.”
But Monday, the department made an about-face, releasing a one-page statement refuting the report’s findings and Winmill's decision to unseal the document.
“While a few of the allegations raised in the report sent to the court may be well-founded but unfortunate anomalies, most of them have been or are being addressed. There has been significant progress in recent months, and we believe it is important to focus on the positive while continuing to improve health care conditions and practices within Idaho’s prisons,” the IDOC statement read.
Winmill appointed an expert to draft the report as part of a class-action lawsuit filed by inmates against the state. The suit bundled a litany of lawsuits that threatened to clog federal court dockets in the 1980s.