Judge issues injunction for Fluvanna women's prison case

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A federal judge issued new orders to improve medical care at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women after a court ruled that the Virginia Department of Corrections violated its settlement agreement from 2016.

In the order, Judge Norman Moon stated that DOC officials violated several health care standards, which helped contribute to the deaths of multiple inmates, including Deanna Niece and Carolyn Liberato.

"In sum, the medical treatment these women received was neither timely nor appropriate, and their deaths illustrate the danger of not having appropriate medical equipment on hand," Moon cited in his report.

The injunction states the prison must staff 78 full-time nurses, provide training, and have medical equipment, including stretchers and oxygen tanks, at different locations in the center.

Shannon Ellis, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, said the center has been working closely on this case for a decade.

She said the injunction is a victory for them to help the inmates in prison.

"Our reaction is very positive," said Ellis. "We think this is a huge victory for the women in Fluvanna."

Ellis also said this is another step forward to find justice for the inmates who have suffered.

"It validates their experiences, their suffering and for their families, their suffering as well," she said. "For the women that remain in Fluvanna, this is incredibly important because a federal judge heard their testimony, put it alongside the Department of Corrections' efforts to discredit them, and found the women credible."

Moving forward, Ellis said they're still reviewing the injunction and will talk with their clients this week.

She hopes this order will show people in the community how much the prisoners have suffered and the devastation they hope to avoid in the future.

"The opinion makes very clear the devastating toll that these practices have taken on these individual women, and the message to the Commonwealth I think is a clear invitation or soul-searching as how we want to continue forward," said Ellis.

The Virginia Department of Corrections released the following statement about the injunction:

"In 2012, the plaintiffs sued the Virginia Department of Corrections complaining of the medical care of the inmates at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, the maximum security prison for female offenders. The VADOC entered into a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs that was to last at least three years and that was approved by court on February 5, 2016. Within a year and seven months, the plaintiffs filed a request that the court find VADOC in contempt for failing to complete the settlement agreement provisions and impose millions of dollars in civil penalties to be paid to the plaintiffs. The court declined to find the Department in contempt in a decision released on January 2, 2019. The court issued an injunction that clarifies some of the provisions of the settlement agreement. The court did not impose civil penalties. VADOC has continued to work to provide appropriate medical care to inmates during the pendency of the lawsuit."

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