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Poor health is rampant within United States correctional institutions. Evidence from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) suggests that roughly 50% of the United States correctional facility population suffers from a diagnosed chronic condition which requires prescription medication. Estimates from the Community Oriented Correctional Health Services project that those numbers could be as high as 80% when taking into account negligently undiagnosed and untreated conditions.
Common chronic conditions and infectious diseases in correctional facilities which require prescription medication include:
The United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that once an individual is incarcerated, the responsibility for healthcare falls upon the correctional facility and their healthcare providers, as individuals are no longer afforded the discretion or freedom to seek out their own healthcare. As such, the Court held in 1976 in accordance with Eighth Amendment protections from “cruel and unusual punishment,” all inmates in the United States correctional system are guaranteed timely and continuous access to “adequate medical care.”
To that end, both the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and American Bar Association standards for health services and standards on the treatment of prisoners include a requirement that all correctional facilities and correctional health care providers continue to provide existing prescriptions to inmates once they’re admitted into a facility. Moreover, both sets of standards require continuity of medical and mental health care for inmates, including the regular, timely and confidential provision of prescription medication for previously and newly diagnosed injuries and illnesses.
Problematically, despite these guarantees, jail and prison populations are subjected to widespread inadequacies in healthcare, often resulting in an inmate’s being denied or having frequent interruptions in the provision of their necessary prescription medication. Interruptions in prescription medication can have catastrophic physical and mental health impacts on patients who, absent a continuity in care, may have their symptoms, illnesses, and injuries worsen to life-threatening states.
Interruption or refusal to provide inmates with prescribed medications meets the threshold of “deliberate indifference” to allege a constitutional deprivation under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Inmates with previously diagnoses disabilities may also be eligible to bring federal claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that any inmate who has suffered serious injury or illness from the failure to access prescribed medications is eligible to hold both the correctional facility and correctional healthcare provider liable, via a federal lawsuit, for any and all damages they’ve incurred.
A unique component of federal negligence litigation is the ability for plaintiffs (injured inmates or their estates) to seek both compensatory and punitive damages. This allows courts to hold correctional facilities and their healthcare providers financially responsible for all damages to plaintiffs and inflict financial penalties outside the scope of a plaintiff’s injuries, in the form of punitive damages, to disincentivize similar action (or inaction) in the future. Like compensatory damages, all punitive damages are awarded directly to the plaintiff in these cases.
For inmates who’ve suffered injury from the purposeful or deliberately indifferent interruption of prescription medication provision while incarcerated, it is highly recommended to consult with a prison medical malpractice and negligence attorney to determine claim actionability and discuss litigation options. If prison staff failed or refused to treat an inmate, allowed infection to spread, or did not send a patient to a hospital, they may also be liable for damages.
With extensive experience litigating similar claims for incarcerated plaintiffs in all 50 states of the United States, Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC is highly qualified and extremely dedicated to helping you hold correctional facilities and their healthcare providers accountable for their actions. If yourself or someone you know suffered significant injury or death from the purposeful or deliberately indifferent interruption of prescription medication while under the care of a correctional facility, contact Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC at (503) 226-6361 or fill out our online intake form today to explore your options via a free case evaluation.