Bureau of Prisons switching kidney health formulas
American Indian and Alaska Native inmates eligible for medical release will be impacted.
The New York Times reported last week that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will soon (“next few months”) stop using a race-based calculation of kidney health that has been determined to be inaccurate by a growing number of health professionals who say it can lead to inequitable treatment and wrong diagnoses.
As the report notes, some judges continue to use the decades-old formula to decide whether to medically release inmates potentially endangered by Covid-19. The BOP currently issues guidelines to judges using the old formula.
Top line: Some Black inmates that would have otherwise been eligible for medical release — it’s unclear how many — have been kept in jail during the pandemic because the old formula adjusts their kidney health function by race in a way that would allow White inmates with the same kidney function to be released.
BOP officials said in the report that they would stop issuing the guidelines that used the old formula for Black inmates, switching soon to one that has been deemed more fair, accurate and race-blind.
Impact on Natives? The report did not indicate whether American Indian and Alaska Natives in the Bureau of Prisons system would also be impacted.
The answer is yes.
“Based on the recommendation of the National Kidney Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology task force, the Bureau of Prisons is transitioning to the use of the 2021 CKD-EPI creatinine calculation, which is devoid of race within its calculation formula,” Randilee Giamusso, a spokesperson for the BOP, tells Indigenous Wire.
All inmates, regardless of race, will fall under the auspices of the new formula. Full formula is here.
As of April 30, there are nearly 4,000 Native inmates in the BOP system, approximately 2.5% of all its inmates.
Questions: How many Native inmates does this formula change impact? Does the old formula have any use? Is it positive in any way? How have Natives been ill served by the old formula? Why is the BOP waiting a “few months” to make this change if it’s right to do now? Will the delay impact medical releases that should be happening more quickly due to the new Covid variants?
Note: Not everyone agrees that the old formula is completely bad.
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