Prison and jail medical care can often be deadly to inmates. Recent investigations of health care in two California prisons revealed “serious problems” that caused preventable deaths.
For example, one inmate reported numerous times blood in his stool and other serious symptoms of failing health. For over two years, the prison doctors did not keep accurate records regarding their patient and specifically failed to follow orders for follow up care of the inmate. One physician attributed his fever to malaria but never ordered a malaria test.He died of esophageal, stomach, and rectal cancer.
On a personal note, I spent my last seven months of incarceration in a Maryland pre-release facility. One of the inmates had problems with his right leg. The lower part of his right leg was swollen and painful. He complained numerous times about his leg to the prison health care providers, a nurse and physician. Over the months, we all watched his health deteriorate. A small limp at the beginning evolved into a constant struggle to walk. He was found one day in the shower– dead. The cause of his death was a pulmonary embolism. Left medically untreated, a blood clot can break off and travel through the body’s circulation, becoming trapped eventually in a lung where it blocks the oxygen supply and causes heart failure (pulmonary embolism).
Many states, like Maryland, have contracted with private companies to provide health care to the inmates. The ultimate goal for private health care providers at prisons–profit. The companies receive a flat rate per prisoner or prison. Reducing medical personal, medications, and general medical care increases profits for the private health care companies.
A 2002 study about health care in prisons was published in the American Journal of Public Health. In federal, state and local jails, 38.5 percent of inmates, 42.8 percent of inmates, and 38.7 percent of inmates, respectively, had a chronic medical condition.The report revealed that fourteen percent of those in federal prisons, 20 percent of state prison inmates and 68.4 percent of those in local jails had not yet seen a health-care provider since their incarceration, despite persistent health problems.
Ten years later, the same major problems of deadly medical care exists in our prisons and jails throughout the United States. The Eighth Amendment prohibits “Cruel and Unusual Punishment. There is no justification for inadequate medical care for inmates. Deadly prison medical care can change a three year sentence for a nonviolent crime into a death sentence.