One of the worst parts of being in prison is not being able to get proper medical care. This is the absolute worst.
When you’re not feeling well in prison — from headaches to pneumonia — you have to fill out a form and go to your housing unit’s “sick call.” This happens once a day (Mon-Fri) and you literally have to run to get a decent spot.
Sometimes, you have to wait two or three hours just to see a nurse. Also, you must have a prescription for all medications, even Tylenol. The funny thing is, in my experience, 99% of the time, the doctors and nurses will give you a box of Tylenol, no matter what your visit is for. It was a running joke in my prison.
It’s very frustrating when you have something simple like a cold or a fever because you can’t just go to the store and buy some Nyquil. In order to take time off or take leave of absence, you must call in sick and get permission. To get a “respite,” you must be dying.
To make matters worse, some states require prisoners to pay for medical care. It might cost as little as $2, but that’s a lot to spend when you’re earning $5 a month.
What about emergency medical services or major medical problems? Which leads to today’s blog post: What Happens When You Have a Stroke in Prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- How does emergency medical service work in prisons?
- Can inmates be “compassionately released” after stroke?
How does emergency medical service work in prisons?
When inmates have a medical emergency, they must “self-declare,” which is basically prison talk about going to the emergency room. If necessary, you will be transferred to the prison medical unit or transferred to a local hospital.
When it comes to things like strokes, inmates have to be brought to the attention of officers, who contact emergency medical personnel. Prisoners were taken directly to hospital for treatment.
This sounds simple, but is actually a complex process. Anytime a prisoner leaves prison grounds it is a security risk and officers must follow special protocols.
I’ve never had first-hand experience with any emergency treatment while in prison, but I know they will do everything in their power to avoid sending prisoners to the hospital because the state has to pay for it.
In some county jails, inmates who have had a stroke or have a medical emergency can be released on a “medical bond,” so the county doesn’t have to pay for medical care. There are many documented cases where officers ignored prisoners with medical emergencies and they ended up dying.
“There’s a woman named Traci Weaver. She’s an inmate at the Washington County Jail in southern Alabama, facing a very minor charge, a drug charge, and she vomited badly,” investigative reporter Connor Schitz explain. “Blood pressure was out of control. As it turned out later, she had had a stroke, a very bad one. She ended up dying, and the prison staff debated how to avoid paying her medical bills before they took her to a hospital a mile and a half down the road. Long conversations, either figuring out if Medicaid will pay for it or if she has private insurance or something like that. And you know the delay when you have a stroke, obviously it can be a matter of life and death.”
Similar incidents have occurred in prisons, but access to information on medical emergencies within prison walls is extremely difficult.
Can inmates be “compassionately released” after stroke?
Compassionate release is a process whereby a prisoner can be released immediately early because of “particularly exceptional or compelling circumstances that could not have been reasonably foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing”.
Compassionate release, also known as medical release, medical parole, or medical leave, can be enforced by a court or DOC official.
The process for compassionate release varies by county and state, but usually involves the prisoner petitioning the warden and/or the court.
Typically, this procedure is performed on inmates who are terminally ill with a life expectancy of less than 18 months and who require specialized medical care outside the prison walls. Other reasons for compassionate release may be a debilitating mental or physical condition that prevents the prisoner from taking care of himself.
Some inmates who are elderly and have irreversible medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s patients, are also eligible for compassionate release.
While a stroke may get a prisoner a compassionate release, it’s not guaranteed.
Do you think prisoners should be allowed access to proper medical care? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: How Medical Bond Can Have Fatal Consequences For Someone In Jail An inmate needed emergency medical help. The jail’s response: See if she has insurance