Monday, November 23, 2009

Northampton County Female Inmates Denied Equal Treatment

Over the past two weeks, I've been regaling you with stories about a female inmate at Northampton County's jail. Her name is Lorena. She claims to be a victim of medical neglect and to have even witnessed what certainly appears to be physical abuse. A drug offender, she's also the inspiration for the rehabilitative work done by Lafayette College's Dr. Bonnie Winfield.

Her story has resulted in some sharp reactions, some from people who think jails should be modern torture chambers, and others from angry prison insiders who resort to personal attacks. Lorena's mother has been told that, if she keeps squawking, some of these insiders may sue her. Instead of silencing her, this threat has made Lorena more vocal.

Here's what Lorena herself has to say about conditions at Northampton County's jail.

"I am currently an inmate in Northampton County Prison. My name is Lorena Hacker and I have been incarcerated since May 17, 2009 for a technical parole violation and my max date was up on November 9, 2009. I also have new charges pending for a non-violent drug-related offense. I have yet to go to court regarding this matter and have been rescheduled for the third time, so my preliminary hearing is now scheduled for December 22, 2009 at Magistrate Marinkovits in Northampton. I have a public defender. There are no drugs as evidence. I have never had a violent charge or physically harmed anyone but myself. All of my past criminal history was drug-related. I have spent years of my life in and out of jail due to mistakes and bad choices I have made because of my addiction to drugs, and not once have I been sent to a rehab. Sure I have been sentenced to a rehab, however the county paroled me to my home plan instead. I feel that jail is the last place I need to be. I never received any in-patient rehabilitation or counseling. I just don't understand this criminal justice system. There are some women who have been sent to a rehab 2-5 times, yet I have never been given the opportunity even once. Why? I know that I have made bad choices and many mistakes, but I do not deserve to be locked up in a prison with no rehabilitation, no counseling and no help.

"I cannot even get proper medical treatment much less dental care in here. I have cavities and all the dentist will do here is pull teeth. So basically, because I get cavities, I should get teeth pulled and along with losing them,lose some more of my self esteem?

"My addiction grabbed a hold of me in 1996. I first came to jail in 1998. I think. It's sad to say this, but it's been so many years that I don't even remember which year exactly that this nightmare began. I'm tired. I'm crying out for help. I'm crying out for justice.

"Yes, I have a criminal record, but that doesn't mean I am a bad person, that doesn't mean that I don't deserve to be treated like a human being. I need help, not to be locked up and ignored. All I am asking for is some help. Please

Sincerely and respectfully,
Lorena Hacker

Here's some of her questions.

1. Why do men have a rehabilitation program with group activities all day and are able to be housed on their own separate unit, not with the rest of the prison population? The women of NCP are not so lucky.

2. Out of all the classes provided for the women, how many are volunteers and how are actually paid facilitators?

3. The prison has now begun a program called IBM. We are supposed to be provided with games and art supplies, etc. A majority of these have been donated and some Correctional Officers have even bought the female inmates games and supplies out of their own pockets. Where is all the money going? Why don't people start holding this county accountable for receipts? I mean, really, how much does a pack of construction paper cost? Yeah, okay, add in a couple of glue sticks, etc. Where are the thousands of dollars for our programs going?

4. Why are the C.Os walking around the unit wearing coats because it is so cold, while the inmates, have short sleeved jumpers? Then on too of it, we aren't allowed to use our blankets from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

5. Why are there three battery operated razors for 40 women, and none of them are soaked in Barbisol solution, ever. All we have is a spray bottle to squirt them down with. Why don't we ask a hair salon how sanitary that is?

6. Why should women who have been abused by men on the outside have to bear witness to the same thing on the inside? Being subjected not only to physical abuse but mental and verbal as well?

7. Why is it that violent offenders who have been convicted of a violent crime against another human being are released back into society, before me? When I am in prison for a non-violent drug offense due to my drug addiction and am guilty of moving without notifying parole of my change of address?

8. Why are men in this prison allowed to have visits without glass in between them and their visitor, but women, who carry our children in our wombs for nine months are not granted contact with our children?

9. Why are men allowed the privilege of earning money by doing kitchen work, laundry, maintenance and commissary, while the only paying jobs for women are three females who receive one dollar per day for cleaning the hallways. Out of all the females incarcerated here, only three can get a paid job. What about the tray runners who do their job three times a day, only to receive an extra tray as payment and sometimes not even that? So basically, they work for free because how much does one inmate meal cost? Any really, who wants to eat this county food anyway?

10. Why would people expect prisoners to change by locking them up without sunshine or even a window to see the outside? The only light we get is artificial. I haven't seen the sun in 6 months all because I never received counseling for some trauma I've gone through, so I turned to drugs to numb my painful memories. So now I still don[t receive counseling and am removed from society, not to mention the light of day. On top of my sorrow and traumatic memories I can become bitter and angry because I'm locked up and ignored.

Lorena's mother is trying to get her to a gynecologist for some female problems. She's willing to pay for it herself. But Lorena has no appointment.


Anonymous said...

The best thing the mother could do is call a press conference and ask why County Executive John Stoffa allows her daughter to suffer.

He could resolve the issue with one phone call.

Stop hiding the Truth Ohare. Help this woman don't use her.

Bill said...

Why keep incarcerating with no treatment? The answer is we keep cutting treatment dollars and expanding prisons. We are building a revolving door system with no exit doors. PA now spends more on prisons than education.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know the answer as to why the women are treated so differently from the men ?

LVCI said...

Ooooo I feel so much safer with Lorena locked up!

51,000 Pa. inmates in this state and Pa. is planning to ship the overflow to three other state$ those inmates incarcerated for what are basically victimless crimes.

Cages should be reserved for the sole purpose to keep us safe in our homes and on the streets. Not just for retribution to the people whom we deem to be irritants (those who annoy us by their actions and we don't want to have to look at them).

How's this 'war on drugs' working out for ya? The problem is only getting worse under they way we are currently dealing with it!

The insanity of the penal system is doing the same things over, over and over again and expecting a different result.

The answer to this insanity lies in the legal punishment and resultant incarceration for victimless crimes. Those like illegal gambling, solicitation (prostitution), non violent self inflicted drug use, non support, indebtness, etc. There should be two levels of incarceration. Right now what we have is a one size fits all approach.

Before we lock a person up in a steel cage we must ask ourselves two questions. If the charged person is not caged up, will it make any of us less safe? If we do lock them up, will they become a better member of society (rehabilitated) or screw em' up even worse?

Think about that next time your on jury duty.

Anonymous said...

"Stop hiding the Truth Ohare. Help this woman don't use her."

Go away troll. Joe Long is calling.

Lorena's Mom said...

Well now she is bleeding again and I am looking into other measures since this one simply does not work. Why put her in a cell with a glass door and camera? To punish her more, disgrace her, for their entertainment or to make sure she does not manufacture blood? I know so much more now that I have the medical records even though the request was dated 5/08 and did not include an initial for her whole medical record. So long, we'll see where we go from here!

Resident of Allentown said...

The drug prohibition is the biggest scam running and is helping no one but the prison unions, drug companies, and alchohol companies. Make no mistake about it, these entities back any politico who will keep this dissaster running.
When Charlie Dent was over at LCCC the subject of gangs in the area came up. I asked him how he felt about ending the drug prohibition which is the main support of these gangs. Although he agreed that the prohibition wasn't working, he felt legalization was not the answer. He did agree that fiscally it would make more sense to end the prohibtion. Someone brought up the point that the U.S. has more of its citizens in jail than any other country and mainly because of non-violent drug related offenses.
I'm a Democrat who voted for Dent and I know he is just going with the flow of every other politico about the prohibition nonsense but it would be nice to see one of them have the guts to speak out against this crap BEFORE he left office. As I told the senator I believe that before 9/11 that prohibition II was this country's biggest threat and is deystroying our country.

My point is that if it weren't for our idiotic drug policy the poor woman would probably be recieving decent care instead of being put in our overflowing and overburdened prison system.
I hope you can raise enough of a ruccus to help her out.

Anonymous said...

Stop filling prisons with non-violent druggies. It's a high price to pay for a law enforcement jobs program. Enough already. Prohibitions create far greater problems out of those they're intended to address.

Bernie O'Hare said...


My main concern is not the larger issue, which you, Bill & LVCI describe eloquently. It is simply getting Lorena to a gynecologist.

Let's assume Lorena is nuts. Taking her to see this doctor will hurt no one, especially since her mom is willig to pay for it.

But if the doctor does find something, that will tell the county something is seriously wrong with the medical care being afforded to our inmates.

Instead of threatening her mom with lawsuits, why can't they work with her?

Anonymous said...

Lorena's Mom,

Ohare and his little mob of malcontents keep using your daughter as a pawn for some worldwide penal system revolution.

I know you want to get your daughter help now. Believe me I understand. Government is good at ignoring individuals. Call Channel 69 and ask them to ask Mr. Stoffa why he will not make the one phonecall that can secure your daughter the special care she needs.

Priosn officials can't tell you that or they would get fired. But if you go to the TV, you will expose this disgraceful lack of action by the County Executive.

Anonymous said...

I hope this is not about insurance and fees and coverage. A pre-existing condition situation prehaps? Could it be that simple? Get the woman to a legit doctor and get her the medical help and info she needs to get back to living a so called normal life. The county should be ashamed of this type of treatment of a woman under their care.

Anonymous said...

Ok this should be fun. You say your crimes have never physically hurt anyone? Hurt is not only physical it is emotional as well. I am willing to bet that your mom and other family are and were emotionally affected by this. Not to mention IF you committed any "non violent" crimes to pay for the drugs..IE prostitution, theft...etc.(Not accusing you just for instance).

Now the fact that you have not been to court has nothing to do with the prison or the officers, it has everything to do with the courts. So put the blame where it belongs. Also lack of medical attention again has nothing to do with the officers it has to do with the contracted medical services. Again put the blame where it belongs. You say there is a lack of programs for female this because of the officers? I think not, it is the administration that dictates what programs are available.

You complain that it is cold and you get a short sleeve uniform, yet you are permitted to buy sweatshirts from the store. Again this has nothing to do with the officers.

You complain that the dentist will only pull your teeth and not fill them. They give you a choice and if you choose not to have it pulled that is on you. This again has nothing to do with the officers.

You complain that there are 3 razors for 40 women but you are permitted to buy your own from the store but choose not to. Again nothing to do with the officers.

You complain that you have to visit through glass. That is the layout of the prison and has nothing to do with the officers.

You complain about the "county food" yet you have the opportunity to buy from the store and you choose not to. Again nothing to do with the officers.

What does it matter if the programs provided are run by volunteers or paid facilitators? A programs is a programs. You can not complain about not getting programs, then when they give them to you, you complain about who is running it.

You complain about lack of sunshine..I can see from the street when I drive by there are windows which let the sun in. Also I am fairly sure the recreation area is screened to let in daylight as well as fresh air.

It is not the fault of the prison or the county that you chose drugs to deal with your issues. You made the decision to choose drugs well before you were incarcerated. So your drug problem is not the counties problem, because of the fact that you have gone to jail several times tells me that when you are out you don't take the steps to help yourself.

I am afraid that your blame is misdirected. If you want to know who or what is to blame get off of your bunk and take a look in the mirror. All of your questions will be answered.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lorena is certainly responsible for what has happened to her, and has certainly hurt many people besides herself. But whya are you so defensive. I've looked thru her comments and see nothing freom her that blames corrections officers.

Primarily, she is interested in seeing a doctor. How about helping her instead of making fun of her?

Anonymous said...

I don't feel I was being defensive. I was stating facts. Most of her complaints seem to be nit picking. If a medical problem is the problem then why fog the issue with what programs she gets to attend? Stay focused on the only legitimate problem which is she THINKS she is not getting proper medical attention.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I don't feel I was being defensive. I was stating facts."

Look at your comment again. At least seven times, you note that Lorena's complaints have nothing to do with COs.

Now look at what Lorena has written. Where has she criticized COs? Nowhere. In fact, she compliments some who dig into their own pockets to buy games for inmates, something I never knew about. If anything, her comments are directed at bad medical care and an uncaring system.

Frankly, I felt a little better about COs after reading what lorena had written. Calm down. We all know she's in jail for what she did, and not you. But try to help her. I'm hgearing that she may soon be allowed to see an OB-GYN. That will be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

That is a very good thing. As that may finally put this mess to bed. I just get skeptical when you present a case as stated by a person who has very little credibility.

Anonymous said...

Fewer inmates = fewer jails = fewer COs and associated costs.

Stop locking up druggies.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:16

I think you are failing to realize that "druggies" aren't just "druggies" a large majority of them commit crimes such as theft and prostitution to support their habit therefore making them more than "just a druggie" they then are a danger to society. Making them a prime candidate for jail.

Anonymous said...

These people have some nerve to get arrested for breaking the law, and then complain that the jail is not providing them treatment for their drug issue. These same people have every opportunity to seek treatment themselves while they are in the free world, yet they don't. That tells me they don't want the treatment, and use the fact that the jails aren't providing them the treatment to continue using as soon as they get out again. It is just a mountain of excuses.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:54,

They break the law bc they have drug issues. Usually once there is an arrest and the world comes crashing down, a little light goes on. That's when people think about treatment. Now if the prison had more of these programs, they might actually reduce the rate of recidivism and the cost of housing more prisoners, which you pay in taxes.

I am a drug addict. My drug is alcohol. I know very few families that are not plagued by this disease. It makes us do goofy things. When I drank, I promised everyone the moon, the sun and the stars. It cost me my license to practice law. Much more, it ruined my reputation. I still hear about it today, 24 years later.

I could be sitting where Lorena is sitting. So could my father, uncle and grandfather. Some of us are addicts. Sone aren't. I don't know if there is a genetic disposition to it or not, but it is a very real problem.

We do not solve that problem by putting someone in jail and then not making sure there is adequate medical care. We do not give women good messagesabout themselves by putting them in prison and then giving them living arrangements that are inferior to those enjoyed by men.

I agree people must take responsibility for their own lives, but I'm sure you'd agree that even inamtes are still human beings.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know the woman have the same living arraignments as the men do. They all live in the newer section of the jail. I am not sure what she is speaking about when she mentions that. The people that should be complaining are the ones living in the building built in the late 1800's now that is something to bitch about. If you have ever been in there you would understand. She is housed in an updated and cleaner environment. Which I would guess is better than more that 2/3 of the males housed in the old and outdated section.

Again outside of the alleged medical problems I don't feel she has a right to complain so long as she is given what she is entitled to under law.

Anonymous said...

MAybe she shouldnt have committed a crime. Then she would be at home for thanksgiving rather than complaining about how hard her prison time is. Sorry this story is falling on deaf ears. I CANT HEAR YOU!

Lorena's Mom said...

So cold hearted! I bet you don't believe in God. We are all guilty of something. People who have addictions are people who need love to bring them back. Someone to show they care and want them to live. Not someone to turn their backs wishing they were never born. They just need treatment at least once, which she was never given. I feel sorry for your hateful hearts. I guess you never made a mistake and will make it to Heaven with no problem. Now I am sure I will hear a bunch of crap about how we "bad people" go to God. It's just the opposite. If you know anything about the Bible and God, you know you are going to be attacked at some point to change your mind about things. Addictions are like the devil, once he gets his hand on you he is hard to shake off. Now I know I have hit many readers on this one, but you know what, I don't care my conscience is clear. Just shows which side you are on. If you were lucky to have a silver spoon in your mouth all your life, consider yourself lucky. Not all of us had the same finer things in life and had we have had to roll with the punches. Lorena is a good girl, a child of God and no matter what, He will watch over her. If God can be with you, who can be against you? She believes she was put there for a reason to help others. Looks like she is getting her wish because I am madder than hell about the mistreatment and I refuse to stop trying to help these people. THAT'S RIGHT, PEOPLE!! Call me what you want, say what you want, but bottom line is I believe in God and there is a reason for everything. It's true that my life is a living hell with all of the going on and the things I have had to go through but still, praying,I persevere.

Lorena's Mom said...

Bernie I am sorry for thinking you may have taken this all off. I am very upset, she is bleeding again while in that cell with the glass door and camera. She is very weak and it took one hour for a nurse to come see her and she just flushed all the blood down the toilet and wouldn't even look at all the pads accumulated. You see at first she tried to hide it so she would not be sent to the cell. After bleeding very heavily she got scared and asked to see the nurse. Bill Argeros, Chairman of the Prison Advisory Board, said just yesterday, she could see a doctor of my choice on Wednesday. All I need to do is pay for the two Sheriff's to come along. No doctor would hear of it. It has to come from the prison. Amelia is out today. The doctors all said she should be in an emergency ward!!!! Guess where she is. The cell with the glass door and camera! Someone is supposed to get back to me after talking to the Warden. That was one hour ago.

Anonymous said...

Lorena's Mom,

"They just need treatment at least once, which she was never given."

She has not been in jail her entire life. Why has she not sought treatment while she was on the street? She could have went to one of the several treatment facilities in the Lehigh Valley on her own dime. The problem is now that she is in jail she wants help, yet she refused to help herself.

And no I am not a religious person. We are all entitled to our beliefs.

The real issue is her not seeing the Dr. When she is released from prison she can get to a rehab on her own.

Lorena's Mom said...

I bet if we got all of these anonymous people with all the right answers to these problems we could finally get something done for the good.
In the meantime, she is waiting to go into a cell that is being occupied while her pads have been thrown away because they say she may have collected them from other inmates. Did she ask one of them to bleed into her toilet too? This is all so gross. They just wanted to destroy evidence. This health system and the person that can stop this madness needs to be replaced. I am logging everyone and everything who has something to do with this down. I am beginning to figure this all out now

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a former inmate of Lorena Hackers. I served 60 days on a dui charge. In those 60 days I have witness the suffering that Lorena has gone through, not just emotionally and physically but mentally... As an inmate At NCP it's emotionally draining to know that you have a medical problem but yet you cannot get help for it. It's physically draining because when incarcerated you have a lot of time on your hands to think about all the things you have done, or haven’t done in life, and you try to reform yourself into the person that you always wanted to be so when you do get released you can live the life "God" intended for you. But in Lorena's case how can she begin to want a good life for herself when she feels that "No one" cares... Isn’t healing and building self esteem apart of rehab recovery? Isn’t this why NCP implemented the IBM program? The answer is "YES" according to NCP, but the truth is it's all a joke. Instead of buying new plasma TV’s for the inmates. Don’t you think they should get a real medical staff. A staff that can actually diagnose head lice. “Yes” I first hand witnessed that the medical staff did not know what head lice looked like so a corrections officers had to diagnose the inmates. So when a woman has a medical problem that causes sever bleeding and blood cots that are the size of tennis balls how can the medical staff give her the proper diagnoses of her problem and treat her correctly. My heart goes out to Lorena. She is a woman and any woman would agree that when you are bleeding and discharging blood clots in such a manner as Lorena is the situation becomes extremely scary. The one thing that god solely blessed women with is the gift to be able to bear a child. How is anyone suppose to mentally cope knowing that, that one gift might be taking from them. Lorena has to deal with this day in and day out. Just because she has committed a nonviolent crime does that mean part of her punishment is to sit in jail with the chance that she could never bear children or lose her own life because she has a medical condition that if properly examined by a gynecologist the threat could be treated or cured for. Does it have to take a tragedy to happen for someone to finally hear her and help her… What kind of inhumane world do we live in???????

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience at NCP and your feelings. a lot of people want to help Lorena but we are outsiders and we have so very little control over what happens inside the jail. As a tax payer I protest the treatment inmates are enduring in the name of corrections in the name of the people of this county. I am ashamed of this administration for turning it's back on helpless inmates. No mercy..only justice.

Anonymous said...

Finally Lorena will be seen by a real doctor that is a huge relieve.. I can not believe that it has taken almost 2 months of trying.. I am one of her former inmates and i have seen the blood clots she has saved in milk carton containers so someone would believe and help her.. I perosnally had to go to one of the guards for her one day because Lorena was in so much pain. I informed the guard about her condtions and that she had the clots saved in her cell and to please come look. The guard responded "I don't want to see it what can I do about it i'm not a doctor". But i will call the medical department and let them know but Lorena has already seen the medical depatrment twice today so I don't know if they will see her again.. That day I sat with her in her cell and tried to keep her mind off of all the pain she was going through.. And never did anyone for medical come check her. It's hard to watch someone who is suffering and you cant help them and it's even harder to know that help is right there but "NO ONE" cares. What really upset me that day is not only Lorena's negelect but the fact that she has to pay each time she is seen by medical so what does it matter if she has already been there twice in one day... She had proof she wasn't lying and that her condition was out of the norm from her regular period flows... Thank you to everyone who has help her.. And to all the people who have a wise remark I want you to think about one thing before you go and post something ignorant. If you saw a livivng being (human, animal) who was in distress isn't your natural instint to help them in anyway you can.. If you saw a person laying on the ground in distress wouldnt you help them? I would? Anyone with a heart would but as we are doing so we know nothing about that person we found laying on the ground we don't have time to pass judgement on (who they are, what they did, where they come from) all we know is that they need are help.........

Lorena's Mom said...

Bernie thank you again for all you have done for me and Lorena. When everyone ignored me you stepped up.God bless you. For the rest of you, please don't forget their are others like Lorena in there that have no one to care for them. I don't know much about the mens side so if something is wrong there I would hope someone would help them too. I hope this fight continues until finally something gets done. I still have some other issues waiting to be cleared up if that's possible.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lorraine, I only wrote about this, but thank you for your kind words. I think Lorena needs to thank her mom. Also, it looks like Bill Argeros and Ann McHale were very responsive to your concerns. I think the privatized medical care at NCP needs to be re-evaluated.

Peace and Love said...

I can completely relate with what this woman is going through, and my heart breaks as it goes out to her. This is a shame. I was incarcerated some time ago in Lehigh County Prison for a non-violent drug possession charge. Lehigh County also has no programs for women, but allows the men to have a dare pod, where they have meetings and group counseling on a daily basis, there not even locked down. Yet, so many of the women who are incarcerated at Lehigh County have children and are not even given the opportunity to receive treatment. Correctional Facilities are a quick fix. We absolutely need more money in drug education, not locking people up for a disease. This is a disgrace that needs to be faced immediately. Why the double standard?