What Are Your Medical Safety Rights While in Jail?

Coronavirus thrives in crowded, indoor places with poor ventilation and hundreds of people, creating a breeding ground in jails.

Jails have become dangerous hot spots for COVID-19 spread because of the high turnover of people coming in-and-out, crowded spaces, and shared facilities such as bathrooms, showers, and dining halls.

While some might use the words “jail” and “prisons” interchangeably, jails act as a short-term detention center, usually less than one year, and are often run by a city or county. Because of the short nature of the stay, individuals are exposed to the general population outside the jail and can easily bring COVID-19 inside to the rest of the jail population.

Many jails responses have been to reduce the prison population by ending sentences early or letting nonviolent offenders go. However, those who remain jailed have medical rights while in custody.

What Are My Medical Safety Rights While in Jail During COVID-19?

For the imprisoned population in jails, you always have medical rights, which remain during a pandemic.

“Incarcerated patients are entitled to many of the same decision-making rights for medical treatment and procedures as non-incarcerated patients,” according to Prison Legal News.

The courts also added some protections to stop inmates from suffering additional punishments for medical care.

The U.S. Supreme Court established the standards that a prisoner must prove for an Eighth Amendment claim of cruel and unusual punishment related to inadequate medical care in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).

The Estelle ruling Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a footnote: “If a State elects to impose imprisonment as a punishment for crime, I believe it has an obligation to provide the persons in its custody with a healthcare system which meets minimal standards of adequacy.

What Are Jails Doing To Help Protect Inmates From COVID-19?

The CDC recommended jails provide free hand soap to inmates and allow frequent handwashing. Before the pandemic, some jails would not allow inmates to have their sanitizers containing alcohol. They’d also restrict or charge for soap and other personal hygiene items from the jail’s commissary.

The CDC recommends social distancing within jails and that jails provide prisoners cleaning products for their cells and providing increased testing for the inmate population.

The CDC also recommends the following:

  • A 14-day quarantine for anyone being transferred in or about to leave the jail population
  • Suspected COVID-19 cases should be isolated individually, but confirmed cases can be quarantined together as a group
  • Consider reducing work programs to stop the congregation of inmates
  • Create PPE stations outside areas that need PPE

Before the pandemic, most jails required medical co-pays when an inmate needed medications, testing, or required to visit the infirmary. But the cost of the co-pays can discourage inmates from seeking medical help. In response, some jails are trying to suspend or reduce all medical expenses during the pandemic to allow testing or treatment relating to coronavirus symptoms.

What Should I Do If I Feel My Medical Rights Are Being Violated In Jail?

If you or a loved one are in jail’s custody and you feel your medical rights are being violated, or the prison is failing to protect you from the Coronavirus, contact the legal team at Knox Law Center right away.

Our top rated attorneys have vast experience navigating the criminal justice system and can provide you with a better understanding of your rights as a prisoner. We’ll discuss the merits of your case and work to ensure you’re being protected while in jail.

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