The Shannell Case: They Investigate in the Senate, Correctional Doctors Respond in the Fourth Power


While the Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Commission is still awaiting a response to requests for information that have been made to various parties in connection with the case of the death of Shanelle Colón Lopez, director of the Company that Manages Health Services We do. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) sheds some light on how the medical care received by the prison population has evolved.

When Shanel died in prison under suspicious circumstances, his family protested to Fortaleza. Even two of Chanel’s relatives, her madrina Odemaris Noble Figueroa and her second cousin, Christopher Escobar Torrance, were arrested, although those charges of obstruction of justice were later dropped during a preliminary hearing. Was.

In addition, several organizations, led by Proecto Matria, Kilometer Zero and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sent a letter to Governor Pedro Pierluisi asking him to form an independent committee to investigate Shanel’s death.

Pierluci addressed the issue, but went on to indicate that he was awaiting the results of an investigation by authorities, as there were no cameras in the prison to record what happened.

He told reporters in June 2022, “Apparently, there were no cameras that could film what happened there, to know whether it was really a suicide or whether it was a murder or a violent death of some other nature.” “

“Ana Escobar has an exact plan to solve this problem. She has already auctioned off, she already has an allocation of over two million dollars [que a] By the end of this year (2022), all prisons in Puerto Rico will have cameras.”

Senator José Vargas Vidot held the hearing in June 2022, a few days after Shenell’s death. As we indicated at the beginning of this story, the Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addictions Commission is investigating Shanelle’s death.

“I’m going to be very frank with you. I do not believe that there was good faith in the way that he acted with this senator from the very beginning, starting with the fact that it seemed downright strange to me that agency, the Secretary of Corrections first filed a self-complaint with the NIE”, Senator Vargas added. Vidot.

“And it draws my attention very much, because though it is true that this is a sensitive issue, it is no less true that the relevant authorities probing matters of this nature are responsible for the agency itself filing cases and initiating enough to do.” a lawsuit. investigation with the NIE”, he said, adding that “the NIE deserves a lot of respect, especially when they try to clean up their work by moving away from agencies”.

For Vargas Vidot, “this kind of gesture hinders our investigation, because for a year everything we have been requesting is under that shadow, under the cover of the NIE, which is the purest secret to anyone. helps to keep up.”

Shannell’s family claims that during the month and a half the young woman spent in prison, they were continually told by a criminal social worker identified as Jorge Plaza that Shannell was dependent on for psychiatric treatment.

“Officers were also verbally informed that he was experiencing severe depression and personality disorder,” he said. “The Plaza told me I was getting fair treatment.”

Vargas Vidot said, “Everyone knows that deaths continue to occur in penal institutions and that most, if not all of them, are linked to extreme negligence of physician reform and poor management of those health services.”

The senator slashed the budget that DCR had for five years for physician reform.

“In 2018, it was $64 million dollars. In 2019, it was $60 million, in 2020 it was $56.5 million and $53 million in 2021,” Vargas Vidot said, indicating that it is $233.5 million in just five years.

dcr budget
mental health budget in reform

“However, what is received in return is very little. For example, the fact that files are not shared between one institution and another, and that there is no control of the quality of services and that for the Pyrrhic correctional Reform is overseen by. It seems to be the other way around, that privatization is in charge and decides how, when and what should be included”, he pointed out.

Vargas Vidot said the DCR has committed mental health workers with whom he has spoken during surprise visits to various institutions. He indicated that the Commission for Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addictions needs documents from Physician Reform, the DCR and the ICF, and has asked the NIE to indicate how its investigation is progressing to see the final report. Is.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rodriguez understands that a civil case against the state can also be taken at the federal level, where there is no limit on how much such claims can be paid, unlike in Puerto Rico, where there is a limit of $75,000 to be paid to the plaintiff. dollar limit and of $150,000 dollars, if it was a multiple.

“According to the version they themselves give, this young woman took a sheet and hanged herself outside the cell, so where were the people, who were watching there, to save them from this situation. Should have known. And if they had been diligent, this situation would not have happened, ”said Rodriguez.

correctional therapist reacts

Meanwhile, Dr. Raul Villalobos, who directs Physician Correctional, explained and defended to management that his company has worked with DCR for five years by accepting the Fourth Estate’s invitation.

Shannell’s mother sent a formal request this week to Physician Correctional for a final report on Shannell’s and the girl’s medical records. The letter includes the family’s lawyer, José ‘Cheo’ Rodríguez, as well as Cuarto Poder and journalist Hermes Ayala.

Villalobos did not shed any light on the medical records, although he indicated that Shanel was treated with psychiatric treatment and that he would make the information public as soon as possible. The Senate Committee on Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addictions is still waiting for much of the information it requested from the Physicians Reformer, though Villalobos also cited the HIPAA law in the matter as a reason for the slow pace of the process.

medical contract
Images of physician and DCR contract

Villalobos, on the other hand, corrected information about the figures that appeared in a Cuerto Poder television report on May 2, indicating that Vargas Vidot was not referring to the contracts that Physicians Reform had with the DCR, but With the budget with which the agency relies to provide health services to inmates.

As administrator, however, the correctional physician holds a contract worth more than $53 million since 2018.

“It’s good that you let me correct that. Our contract, not only in mental health but also in physical health, is $10,377,000 a year. There’s another budget that’s appropriately a corrective healthcare program that includes regular staff, nurses , temporary staff, procurement of AIDS and cancer drugs, procurement of medical supplies and correctional services, amounting to about $50 million. Obviously access to information since it unifies both budgets”, he Argued.

Villalobos explained that “we had that budget in front of us at 17 million 600 thousand dollars” and that his company established “a savings of six million dollars a year for the state”.

What appears to be a lack of medical care at Bayamon Women’s Prison, where Schnell died, came to light during her interview with Quarto Poder. Villalobos responded when confronted with the fact that the personnel table has the sum of correctional physicians attending the prison population, it appears that there are .25 psychiatrists attending the Bayamon Women’s Correctional Facility.

Mentor of the correctional physician staff at DCR.

In an interview with Cuarto Poder he said, “25 sequents for a facility in which currently 202 prisoners are sentenced and tried is an adequate personnel ratio.”

That equates to 10 hours of psychiatric treatment a week for the 202 inmates in that prison, he said. According to the 2020 Inmate Profile, 86% of female inmates suffer from mental health issues.

editor’s Note: Part three of three. Nearly a year after the death of Chanel Colón Ponce, Quarto is looking into the outcome of the Poder case, which is being investigated by both a Senate commission and the Bureau of Special Investigations (NIE). Read the first and second parts by clicking here.

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