Correctional Medical Care Cases
A case involving correctional medical care has inherent tension because of the distinct roles of the correctional staff and the medical staff. The role of correctional officers is to provide a safe and secure environment for people under their control. The role of the medical staff, in contrast, is to provide therapeutic care in an environment that is frequently anti-therapeutic, involving periods of idleness and lack of hygiene.
Despite the inherent tension between correctional and medical roles, the obligation to provide health care in correctional settings is well-established. As the Supreme Court has noted:
Just as a prisoner may starve if not fed, he or she may suffer or die if not provided adequate medical care. A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is
incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society. Brown v. Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910 (2011).
But in the real world, the provision of medical care in the correctional setting frequently causes horrific abuses. With a jail and prison population now over two million people, the United States incarcerates the highest percentage of its population in the world.1 2 Not surprisingly, jail and prison facilities are often ill-equipped to handle these numbers, frequently exceeding the correctional facilities’ operational capacity.
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