Much has been written about bulging jail and prison populations of the last 30 years, especially in the U.S.

But little has been written on the fact that major health epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C have hit those who have lacked or, in most instances have never had quality health care: prisoners.

Carceral institutions in the U.S. have aggressively turned to for-profit prison health care providers to manage these populations. This endeavor has, in a word, not been particularly successful.

First, prisons and jails lack both the financial resources and institutional imperatives to address major health care problems behind bars. Bulging carceral institutions has meant that the majority of U.S. states and municipalities have had to do prisoner health care on the cheap; outside prison health care contractors have been a convenient way to do this.

These companies focus on cutting costs by ensuring that legal liabilities are met at the absolute minimum of standards imposed by courts. Jails and prisons are first and foremost organized to manage and control risk. In this way, regardless of health status all incarcerated individuals are prisoners first and patients an often distant second (Report on New York Prisoners).

The result has been a deadly human rights crisis not at the hands of villains and bad apples working inside carceral institutions. But at a more systemic level. Prisons and jails today are overwhelmed by prisoners with multiple illnesses who need comprehensive care. They routinely lack sufficient record keeping on prisoner medical histories and a stable health care workforce (i.e., the turnover rate for prison health employees in, for example, the state of New York is very high). The result is the creation of catastrophic institutions in which exorbitant numbers of chronically ill prisoners needlessly die in secret.

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This site will serve as place to break the silence of a crisis that has gone on far too long.

It is a problem that is not easily addressed in age of ‘tough on crime’ posturing by politicians and free market profiteering run amok.

The focus on cost savings and profit over care that characterizes much of the U.S.’s health care system is mirrored in the nation’s carceral institutions and is thus a problem of both prisons and society.

Dramatic reductions in incarceration rates and the creation of a system of comprehensive health care in the U.S. for both privileged and poor alike will go a long way in helping the nation and, increasingly, other countries in the world turn the corner to a more humane and democratic future.

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In addition to serving as a repository for carceral health care crises in the U.S. and around the world, the site will also continuously build a bibliography on the most up to date scholarly and social justice reports on issues relevant to carceral health care.

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“I would argue that a social justice approach should be central to medicine and utilized to be central to public health. This could be very simple: the well should take care of the sick.

-Paul Farmer (celebrated human rights physician and author of the outstanding book, Pathologies of Power)

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2 Responses to “About”

  1. Linda Lorincz Shelton, Ph.D., M.D. Says:

    I would like to communicate more and have someone help me write up the story about medical neglect in Cook County Dept. of Corrections and Illinois Dept. of Corrections. I am a multiply handicapped individual and whistle blower concerning government corruption. Illinois political patronage breeds corruption like garbage breeds flies.

    I have been repeatedly jailed and inprisoned on phony charges in retaliation for my whistle blower activities. As a physicain and mental health provider (license now lost and made destitute due to these unlawful arrests and malicious prosecutions) I am particularly able to describe in detail the medical neglect and torture perpetrated on prisoners for profit of these bloodsucking prison medical service providers and patronage political appointees to prison and jail positions.

    It is very unpleasant for example to be punished for refusing to walk (when one is unable to walk due to a disability) and then forced to lay naked other than in a segregation smock for days in my diarrhea because I was too weak to get up to the toilet and too dehydrated because I could not get up to the sink in the cell. All the time the prison officials and guards who stating I was malingering and faking my medical disorders.

    Ordering a prisoner who is allergic to food to eat the regular diet without modification and then ordering it to be pureed to “solve your allergy problem” is like ordering someone who is allergic to peanuts to eat peanut butter. I was left with the choice of refusing the food and starving for six months or playing Russian roulette with the food every day, not knowing if I would have a bad reaction and die form lack of medical care. I chose to starve and went from 170+ lbs to 127 lbs and dehydrated in six months.

    Prison conditions in the US are worse than Abu Ghraib – unethical, illegal, unconstitutional,torturous, and providing no rehabilitative assistance whatsoever. They are warehouses for the mentally ill, drug-addicted, HIV infected, hepatitis C infected, and political prisoners who are innocent. They are “good” jobs for the ignorant, the unemployed rural population, and those that are bullies, sociopaths, and psychopaths, and like to inflict pain and torture on others. It is a place you can put people to die inhumanely out of sight and out of mind.

    • carceralhealthcare Says:

      Hi Linda–Thanks so much for your riveting story. I apologize for taking so long to respond. We have very young children so I’m now finding the space to turn my attention back to the blog. We should talk more about your story as has to be told. I also hope more courageous souls like yourself come forward and share on this pace. I look forward to talking more via email.
      Warm Regards, Ben


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