Pills Behind Bars

Pills Behind Bars

An essay about pharmaceutical medications behind jail and prison cells.


It’s safe to say that inmates don’t get the best care when it comes to being in the US corrections system. Whether it’s jail or prison, there are problems when it comes to being in the corrections system and needing pharmaceutical medications, whether it be for the most common five types of illness such as arthritis, hypertension, asthma and heart problems. or for people the 20% of prison inmates that have a serious mental illness, with the 30-60 percent of people that have substance abuse problems. So how does the Department of Corrections help these people? How do they purchase the pharmaceuticals and how do they distribute them to the populous? Is healthcare a right or a privilege in prison? Can it be taken away?

While it is confirmed that prisons need to take care of the inmates, the state assumes liability for the safety of the inmate who is taking the prescription. In 1976 the court case “Estelle v. Gamble 4. ”This decision stated that correctional institutions cannot be deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of individuals within their custody, since that would contravene the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment” But can this actually stop administrators of the prison from “forgetting” to give inmates their medication? For example, an inmate that is on anti-depressants is at a state correctional facility he then attacks a CO, and winds up in the hole. An angry Co could deliberately forget or not give an inmate the prescription that they need. We need to make sure that no matter what, everyone is given what they need when it comes to physical and mental health medications. Regardless of what they may or may not have done.

Most prisoners are addicts, whether it be alcohol, heroin, or any other drug you can think of. There’s tons of prescriptions in the outside world that can help get people off these drugs, for example heroin. It’s easier nowadays to get onto methadone and suboxone to get the person off heroin. But the people that are addicted to Hypothetically speaking, if a prisoner were addicted to heroin, he would need to go to the methadone clinic everyday, you need to get your prescriptions filled. A ton of jails and prisons in this country do not allow you to have suboxone or methadone. So a person that is getting off heroin gets arrested for a minor crime, he’s now in jail and in withdrawal. Knowing that heroin is around him and he can buy drugs in prison, the temptation is there. The jail would just be creating another addict by not allowing him to take his methadone. Which creating addicts in prison, causes tons of problems. This hypothetical yet very common scenario. I just described goes back into how pharmaceutical drugs are used in DoC’s. There’s a correct way for the department of corrections to go about giving out prescription drugs to the inmates that need it, either the physical or mentally ill patients.

When it comes to certain prescribed drugs, if a primary physician prescribes a man on the drug adderall, there is the possibility for some jails and prisons in which he cannot access it. There is no clear answer here. on the correctional facility. A man gets sent to prison and he gets his doctor to write a note to the detention facility. Telling them the benefits of this inmate being on this drug is important for X Y and Z. The facility has to consider the fact that this inmate could sell the adderall to other inmates and could subjugate the inmate to urine analysis to make sure it isn’t being sold. But that’s if you’re lucky, since there is no clear answer on this. This is more likely to work with prisons or jails that have adequate psychiatric facilities. While less-funded more-conservative prisons and jails will dismiss an inmate and doctor’s request for them to be on the medication. Either for punishment reasons, or because they lack the funding to make sure that the inmate will be taking the medication. Or it could just be ignorance for the inmate, looking at the drug adderall and seeing it only as a way of someone to get “high”. But there are also alternatives that the prison can use, for example, finding a different drug for Adderall so that way they aren’t giving out legal amphetamines.

It’s important for doctors to prescribe the correct medication for the inmates. It’s important for the man that’s prescribed Adderall, he gets the drug he needs. Substitute drugs will not always suffice. It can cause many problems. If a man is prescribed a benzodizapine such as Xanax, While it is a controlled substance and needs to be taken carefully to avoid abuse, the withdrawl for the medication is deadly. If you’re prescribed it for a number of years, and one day you end up in jail, that medication is needed. Withdrawal affects can include seizures and possibly even death. If the state is liable for the inmate, the state needs to make sure that they’re prescribed the correct medications while they’re inside the department of corrections. Substitutes can work for drugs like Adderall. Getting off heroin will be miserable, but you will survive. But when it comes to certain drugs like Xanax, you’re at serious risk for injury and even death. While substitutes can work for a number of prescription drugs, you cannot give an inmate a substitute medication for benzodizapines such as Xanax along with other serious drug classes such as alcohol that can cause serious side affects if not taken. A substitute cannot exist for this class of drugs, the certain chemicals are important in the drug to make sure that the inmate is properly getting what he needs to survive. While it is a good idea for the department of corrections to wean an inmate off the drug. For the less-funded more-conservative prisons and jails, going cold turkey on that drug class is certain death for an inmate. Funding is important for these jails and prisons, especially for the psychiatric facilities of the jails and prisons. Most inmates have mental health issues, it would just be a general good idea to increase the funding, prisons should be for rehabilitation, making sure that the inmate gets what he needs, that his rights are not trampled upon. If an inmate cannot get his prescriptions, He is liable for death, while the state is liable for his physical and mental state. Without that, court cases like “Estelle V. Gamble 4” it becomes completely useless. That’s why it’s important to make sure that inmates are taken care of, especially on the mental health front.

It’s no secret that the department of corrections does not view most inmates as human beings. On a video of “60 Days in” a CO told an undercover inmate that “You are a human being, not an inmate” with much media showing that correctional officers do not usually care for the inmates. While it is recommended you do not help inmates out, along with being strong and stern to the inmates, a touch of grace is needed. A man named Jeremy Laintz showed that the correctional officers and medical personnel on site, knew about his addiction to heroin along with having hepatitis-C, he was treated terribly, Jeremy had chest pains, panic attacks, low blood pressure, and when he pleaded to go to a hospital, he was sent to a medical center and diagnosed with “dehydration, sepsis, pneumonia, and acute renal and respiratory failure.” The problem with this, is that the sheriffs department overseeing the jail took almost no precautions to make sure the safety of the inmate was OK. Telling him to practice his breathing, giving him over the counter medication not related to his problem of “Not being able to breathe” Lawyers have brought class action lawsuits to inadequate healthcare to the entire system. So that we can make sure cases like Jeremy Laintz can never happen again. But unfortunately this is only one case, while the united states having the highest amount of prisoners in the world, many of these cases go right under the radar, for people to never find out about. People that do not have the money to fight back against the jails while they have to suffer and wait for a major incident to occur for possible change. Cases like these, the state takes zero liability.

So why should we care about people that are stuck in the department of corrections? With the united states having the most prisoners, all of us have known someone that has been to jail, prison or is currently still serving a sentence. The united states should be able to take care of it’s inmates to make sure that they’re still able to serve their time. Otherwise, what is the point of having a system that pleads rehabilitation but lets people hyperventilate and have their mental states degrade until they snap forever? Things like this are a disgrace to the country that we live in, these people are our families, our neighbors, our co-workers. We should not let people suffer behind bars due to inadequate healthcare. Without the state assuming liability, how can we hold the state accountable if they cannot be held accountable for their own inmates?

In conclusion, it’s clear and evident that inmates are not taken care of in most of the United States. The state has liability over the prisoners safety, but often does not see to it that they get the help they need. Along with how medical personnel in the prison put their own “expertise” when they should be listening to the inmate’s primary physicians instead of the prison doctors. Those doctors do not know the inmates as well as the physician, which are subjected to biases based on them committing a crime. It’s important for the inmates to be properly taken care of when it comes to getting their needs met so they can stay mentally sane in high stress environments. With mental illness being exacerbated when in withdrawal of medication.

Like (0)