The 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, requires that prisoners be provided adequate medical care.
The Supreme Court has established standards for a prisoner to prevail on a claim that his or her 8th Amendment rights have been violated due to inadequate medical care. A prisoner must demonstrate that officials showed deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Deliberate indifference means that a prison official knows of and disregards a substantial risk of harm to a prisoner.
Access to adequate medical care means:
- Prisoners shall be able to make their medical needs known to staff, that sick calls be available regularly, and that there be competent medical staff to treat or refer patients and follow up on their condition
- Prisons must also establish an adequate emergency response system.
- Prisoners have a right to prescriptions and medically necessary diets
- Prison officials must not be deliberately indifferent to the serious mental health needs of prisoners and there must be a health care system to meet these needs
- A prisoner has the right to routine and emergency dental care
The unconstitutional denial of such care is a problem that plagues the prison system and is the target of nationwide reform efforts. Many prisoners are held in appalling and harmful conditions. Tens of thousands are often kept in solitary confinement with devastating effects on prisoners, especially ones with mental illnesses.
If you or a loved one has had constitutional rights infringed upon or has been confined under unconstitutional conditions, consult a criminal defense attorney experienced in prison mistreatment. Your lawyer can fight for the justice you or your loved one deserves.