Harris County Inmates Still Fighting To See Medical Records

Harris County Jail, looking pristene
Harris County Jail, looking pristene

The on-again-off-again court battle to allow Harris County prison inmates to obtain copies of their own medical records while behind bars is starting to steam up once more.

In one corner there is Matthew Collazo, who has been sentenced to prison for jumping bond, and his mother, Julie, who has power of attorney for her son. In the other is Sheriff Adrian Garcia, and Michael Seale, who is allegedly in charge of the county jail clinic.

In May 2009, Collazo and his mother filed a lawsuit in Houston federal court to get Collazo's medical records. He had odd bumps all over his skin and wanted to see an outside doctor, but says he needed his medical records to proceed. When he asked, the jail said no dice.

A sheriff's department spokeswoman has said that one of the primary reasons why the jail's policy is not to release medical records to inmates is that information on when a doctor's appointment is scheduled could fall into the hands of someone who could then help orchestrate an escape.

Collazo's attorney, Randall Kallinen, tells Hair Balls that he dismissed the case in April because the jail did give Collazo his medical records. However, says Kallinen, Collazo had been transferred from the jail to state prison, meaning he was no longer a Harris County inmate and subject to the jail's medical record policy.

One month later, Collazo began appealing his criminal case, and was moved back to the Harris County jail to wait for hearings. The hearings kept getting delayed, says Kallinen, and Collazo currently remains waiting in the jail.

So, now that Collazo is back in jail, guess what he does? That's right, he asks for his medical records. Collazo claims that he is worried he is having medical issues with his prostate, possibly cancer, and that he needs treatment that the jail is not giving him. He says he needs his medical records to show to his own doctor.

Collazo asked for his records on May 30 and was denied days later, on June 1. His mother was also denied.

The two Collazos have now filed another lawsuit in Houston federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the jail's policy not to release medical records to inmates.

"The reason they give for the policy is that if appointments were known to people outside the jail it could be a security risk," says Kallinen. "And when I asked, I told them that all they have to do is redact the appoint information or have a separate page for appointments and then exclude that page. But they didn't have much to say about that."

Instead, the war in court wages on.

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