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Prison Healthcare: A Classic Oxymoron

What is prison like for old senior inmates

Many prisons and jails in the United States do not provide even basic healthcare to their inmates. A report by Newsweek about the dangers of prison overcrowding also focused about the total lack of any healthcare in many prisons and jails in our federal, state, and local prison systems.

A report by the National Center for Biotechnology revealed,“Among inmates with a persistent medical problem, 13.9 percent of federal inmates, 20.1 percent of state inmates, and 68.4 percent of local jail inmates had received no medical examination since incarceration.”More than 25% of the inmates stopped receiving their prescribed medications.

Many Americans are not sympathetic to inmates as evidenced by the often used comment, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”However, it should never be forgotten that The 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that prisoners have a right to medical treatment. An inmate sentenced to five years should not die as a result of no medical care or substandard medical care. Approximately fifty percent of all inmates are locked up for nonviolent crimes.

The Newsweek report discussed in great detail the alarming shortage of prison doctors in California. When you combine the shortage of prison doctors and the massive prison population in California, you have a humanitarian disaster. The U.S. Supreme Court noted in the 2011 case of Brown v. Plata, “In 2006, a preventable or possibly preventable death occurred’ somewhere in California’s prison system once every five to six days..”

It has been well documented that a substantial number of inmates nationally have mental health issues which require healthcare. Tragically, mentally ill inmates have not received basic mental healthcare, but have been subjected to inhumane treatment. In 2012, a Florida inmate, Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate was scalded to death. He was locked in a closet-sized shower by prison guards after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean the mess.

The Newsweek article reported about the treatment of suicidal inmates in California’s state prisons. California locked suicidal prisoners inside cages the size of telephone booths when there were no available beds in mental health units. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Brown v. Plata discussed an inmate who was “held in such a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic.”

On a personal note, I knew an inmate in state prison who complained to the prison heath care providers about pain in his leg for several months. Everyone watched his limp grow more severe until he was found dead one day in the shower from a blood clot that originated from his leg.

Prison healthcare is an example of a classic oxymoron.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of

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4 Responses to Prison Healthcare: A Classic Oxymoron

  1. PrisonPath April 1, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Phillip Carter USA Nam Vet
    National Chaplain at National Incarcerated Veterans NetworkUSA

    Great post

  2. PrisonPath April 1, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Bradley Schwartz
    Prison Path Founder

    Thanks,Phillip. The lack of healthcare is shocking.

  3. PrisonPath April 3, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    “One can only express shock that a civilized country does provide this basic service to inmates.
    By Gerry

  4. Joan Copenhaver May 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    So true, many inmates die in prison, due to lack of proper medical treatment. Why can’t these inmates be put on house arrest and let there families provide healthcare needs? Why are we all paying the way and they still do not get treatment necessary. The nutrition at these facilities promote unhealthy bodies. I know it all comes down to the $$$ and ‘the budget!’ What can be done?

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