The prison health-care fiasco

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By Just A Guy

Editors note: Just A Guy was recently released after serving time an a California state prison. He continues to report for us on prison and law-enforcement issues.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court the federal three judge panel’s decision forcing him and Californina to release around 40, 000 inmates, but I just can’t fathom the rationale behind this appeal. The Santa Cruz Sentinel article says that California is proclaiming the courts have overstepped their authority by ordering this release, but hasn’t anyone in the state government considered that maybe the feds are ordering this release because California’s government has overstepped its bounds?

Don’t Arnold and the state government see this isn’t about just health care for inmates, but also about rational laws, rational sentencing, and treating human beings with dignity and respect? I know the majority of the public would rather bury its head in the sand than face this issue, but this issue is in your living rooms, in your classrooms, and on your streets. It isn’t just the gang-banging jerk from the hood that’s being thrown in jail for ridiculous amounts of time in California -- it’s also middle class addicts, college students etc … It’s your neighbors, your friends’ kids, and your kids that are all affected by this insanity. All the judges are trying to do is bring a small amount of sanity back into your fucked up state.

From the article:

“But at the same time, Schwarzenegger and prison officials have been urging the Supreme Court to review the case, arguing that the three judges have trampled on the right of the state (my emphasis) to run its prison system and operate within its budget.”

Isn’t it ironic that the state’s appeal is based on the premise that the courts are trampling the state’s rights? The panel’s order is based on the fundamental constitutional rights of, mostly, Americans to receive adequate medical and mental health care! Isn’t there a huge push in this country with Obama’s healthcare bill to ensure that all Americans are able to receive healthcare? Why is it any different for Americans in prison? Not just Americans though, but any human being in this country? Wouldn’t you, if you were on vacation and became sick in another country, have the hope that you would be able to get adequate medical care? People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.

I have Hepatitis C. I was supposed to be on a program called chronic care, in which I should have seen a doctor once every 60 days to get my blood drawn to check my viral load. I was not seen for the last 18 months that I was in prison in California. Another time I received an injury called a calf strain while playing handball. My calf muscle detached from the tendon. By the time I was given an MRI and the results of the MRI the muscle had healed, but healed improperly, so now the right calf muscle looks deformed:

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I had a bunk mate, Mark, who was having severe problems with various organ failures. His legs would become so swollen that he had a hard time walking to the restroom and his stomach so distended he looked as if he were pregnant.

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The only way he could get medical treatment was to do what’s called a “man down” (this means he would have to have the medical staff come to the building by proclaiming it was an emergency medical situation. In other words, there would have to be an emergency alarm, the entire yard would have to be closed down and the medical staff brought to the building) to get treatment. The building co’s were so disgusted by the situation that they would encourage Mark to do a “man down” just to be seen. Ultimately Mark was put in to hospice and died. (see picture of Mark’s legs taken in December of 2008).

I specifically remember a time when Mark did this “man down” and the nurse (or nurse’s aide) tried to talk Mark into staying in the building until the following day because the doctor that was supposed to have seen Mark that day had called in sick.

I am sure there are plenty of people who will read this and say to themselves or to others that if the people didn’t commit the crimes than they wouldn’t have to worry about such things as healthcare. Or that inmates are getting better healthcare than people on the streets. Or that inmates don’t deserve healthcare. To these people I say this: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. I wonder how the pictures attached to this blog may cause people to think a little differently about the entire situation. These pictures are just a small idea of how healthcare really works in the system, the reality of it. So, my question is this: Who is really getting their rights trampled and who stood up for Mark’s rights?