Your loved one in prison has the right to medical care. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prisons must provide mental and physical healthcare. But prisoners do not always receive the care they need. What can you do if your loved one isn’t getting necessary medical care in prison?
How much care are prisons required to give prisoners?
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment.” The Supreme Court has decided that this prohibition prevents prison officials from depriving you of necessary medical care. If a prison denies your loved one care, your loved one may be able to take legal action. In this case, you can sue the prison. For a claim to succeed, you need to prove that the prison treated a “serious medical need” with “deliberate indifference.” These are legal terms.
- Serious medical need. A “serious medical need” is one that a doctor says requires treatment. Or, it is so serious that any person would see that it needs treatment.
- Deliberate indifference. This term means that staff knew about a serious medical condition and knew that not giving treatment could cause excessive harm.
What can you do if your loved one isn’t getting necessary medical care in prison?
Unless your loved one is dead or unable to act on their own behalf, you cannot file a lawsuit for them. But there is still plenty that you can do to help.
Help Your Loved One Navigate the Medical Care System in Prison
The prison system expects prisoners to try to solve issues internally first. Your loved one will not have as much access to information as you do. Therefore, you can use your access to help them understand this process.
Their first step is to file a BP-8 form and hand it to staff. This is the formal form for requesting a remedy. If officials deny this request, your loved one can file appeals using forms BP-9, BP-10 and BP-11. You can help your loved one understand this process. They will need to go through it to be able to sue.
Help Keep Records
It is hard for prisoners to stay organized. Help your loved one keep a written record of their health and their attempts to ask for help. Ask them to give you dates, names and details about each incident. This will be useful if your loved one needs to sue. You should be careful, however, because prison officials can read those letters.
Write a Letter on Their Behalf
If your loved one already started the formal remedy process, you can write a letter to the warden. Let the warden know directly that you are concerned. Help them understand why it is necessary to provide treatment for your loved one.
Contact Your Congressperson
Your letter to the warden may not cause anything to change. If that’s the case, you can contact your congressperson. These representatives have an official in their office called an ombudsman. This person’s job is to represent their boss’ constituents to government agencies. Present your loved one’s case to their office. Ask directly for their help.
You cannot sue for your loved one if you believe the government violated their rights. Only they can initiate a lawsuit. But you can still help your loved one. You can help them through the BOP system and you can advocate for them to officials. More than anything, you can be there for them to support them when they need it.