Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Jospeh Harp Correctional Facility

17th October 2012
Yesterday the Jospeh Harp Correctional Facility was visited. Again I was most warmly welcomed by Ms Pat Sorrel and Warden Mike Addison. All staff were open and sharing in information and ideas. Their day had begun with a “Shakedown” - a surprise raid by prison authorities on prison cells to search for weapons and other contraband. (see as an example , but a little less confronting) - Apparently water output escalates dramatically at the announcement toilet flushing) and ducks living near the sewerage plant are known to exhibit strange behaviours for days after the shakedown!  External correctional staff and specialist dogs are involved. It is a method of quality control in regards to ridding the prison of contraband. Shakedowns occur at least annually but may occur more often. They may be unannounced or planned. 

The Joseph Harp Correctional Center is a 1370 bed (up to 1405) medium security institution located near the town of Lexington, in central Oklahoma.   The site of the facility had been used by the Navy as a firing range during World War II.  After the war, the land was turned over to the Mental Health Department, which in turn transferred it to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 1971. About 37% of prisoners are over the age of 45 and 235 prisoners are 56 or older. Over 48% (666) prisoners were sentenced for some form of assault (including sexual assault) and had sentences averaging 20+ years. About 70 % of offenders are on some sort of mental health medication. (similar to Jefferson City; opiate and mood altering medications are dispensed by nursing staff and non opiate and non mo0d altering medications are essentially self managed; unless and older prisoner needs assistance with medication management); Medication rounds are dispensed twice a day.

There is a medical Medical Unit, with approximately 258 neds, which opened in 2007 to provide housing for those offenders meeting one of the following criteria:  Dementia/Alzheimer patient; vision impaired/blind; wheelchair bound; uses walker/crutches; 65 or older.  There are four isolation cells for those with infectious/contagious diseases such as tuberculosis.  The unit has been adapted for aged care needs with wider doors, lower drinking fountains, age adjusted toilet and shower stalls, with no obvious trip hazards. 

 There is a strong Mental Health Service including medication management, suicide prevention, individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and psycho-educational groups

The facility is supported by a range of skilled health professionals:
Mental Health: Coordinator, psychologist x 3, psych clinicians x 4, social workers x 2
Nursing: Manager, 20 RN’s and 5 PCA’s
There is no after hours nursing coverage in the medical unit. Trained medical orderlies are employed - offenders assigned to assist the offender residents of the medical unit, providing basic care to the more disabled older offender.  The unit is dormitory style with chest high walls separating each sleep area. There are also corridors of 4 bed cells. No bunks are used in this area. All beds are fixed. There are no high low beds

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with one of the offender orderlies “Kirby”. Kirby described his training as being over 8 weeks with homework. He was well briefed in vital signs, hygiene care, pressure care, infection control principles (gloves, hand washing PPE), minor dressings, ADLS, catheter care. – He was as well briefed as Patient Care Attendants (Australian Equivalent of his role). Kirby indicated he recievd a basic a wage for his work – about $27.00 a month (I think); this was slightly less than some of teh other paid roles (Prison Industry) but Kirby saw other benefits in the role: teaching him great skills for his release, he lived in the medical unit and was away from the general harshness of the prison environment, the Medical Unit was the only Unit that had air-conditioning and he really liked the air-conditioning. There was a warmth and caring nature to Kirby’s interaction. He was a good example of why an offender / carer model is worth considering in the Victorian Correctional context.  Staff highlighted that not every offender was suitable for the role, nor was the role suitable to every offender. Offenders had to demonstrate good behaviour. Offenders convicted or serious assaults were precluded and there were examples discussed where offenders had not completed the training.

The key learning from the discussions at Joseph Harp is: with appropriate selection and appropriate training an offender / carer model can provide high quality, low cost care to older prisoners.

JHCC is supported by an outpatient style facility providing medical support with a full time physician and two full time physican assistants (similar to Nurse practitioners - Australia). There is an onsite dental service, visiting radiological service and other visiting specialist clinics available. Whilst there is no infirmary on site at JHCC, there is a strong linkage to the nearby Lindsay Municipal Hospital. JHCC is the host facility for the DOC clinic located at the Lindsay Municipal Hospital (LMH), providing corrections officer assignment to the clinic. They conduct counts, do cell/ward searches, and in brief maintain supervision, discipline, control and order in the clinic.  The LMH DOC Clinic provides surgery, recovery, emergency room and non-emergency appointments for offenders.

Hospice care is not provided on site; essentially older prisoners whose failing health requires more skilled care are transferred to the LMH, or may be eligible for Medical Parole / early release. Again, as has been discussed with other facilities visited, early release processes are governed by external reviews and owing to the sensitivities associated with early release; the process is long and tightly managed; ultimately the State Governor (Premier equivalent Victoria) makes a final decision after a recommendation has been made by the correctional authorities. Needless to say, whilst early release / parole is applied for; it is seldom approved before an offender dies in custody.

There are few, if any options for transition of older prisoners in need of aged care who are eligible for release. Again there was great interest in Wintringham service and the Australian aged care system which made Wintringham services possible.

Following the tour of JHCC, the Black Dodge Charger turns towards Texas. Ardmore is the place for rest for the night. The name Ardmore is Gaelic signifying high grounds or hills.  (Apparently there is no link to the Scottish - In the early 1900s, Ardmore became well known for its abundance of cotton-growing fields and was known at one stage as the world's largest inland cotton ports.  The city is positioned next to one of the largest oil fields ever produced in Oklahoma, the Healdton Oil Field.

On my way to Ardmore, I stopped at Chickasaw National Recreation Area just east of the town of Sulphur. The principal attractions in Sulphur besides the park are sulfurous springs in town that were once thought to cure ailments and other medical conditions. Apparently the pungent odor and taste are quite popular with some people.

A new dietary battle / challenge has presented itself today. Up to date breakfast has usually been a benign experience. There have been challenges of course, but to date their have been health options. Either, there is a conspiracy or as I head south, “things are changing”. EVERYTHING I tried had triple sugar! Sultana Brand were a I remember "Frosties" - coated in sugar. Yogurt – sickly sweet. And the two fruits were soaked in a sickly sweet amaretto. After a small amount of each I settled on a small amount of sausage gravy – yes I know it looks like vomit, but it is not sweet.

 Right next door to accommodation - Again - "No Deal" - more salad for dinner - I really am enjoying the baby carrots you can get here in bulk. No - Really!

The weather has been very kind. Apart from a couple of spot showers; most days have been around 71 Fahrenheit = 21 Celsius – perfect really.

Today; it is off to Fort Worth - tonight, I think, it may be Billy Bob's - the worlds largest Honk Tonk - "Yeh Haugh!"

1 comment:

  1. lucky ducks

    Phill - one question.

    Have you lost any weight?