As I review complaints about medical care, or lack thereof, in the Michigan prison system, I contend that the state is violating the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Let me explain.
Mr. A is a new prisoner. He suffers from cerebral palsy. He reports to HFP, “I need to get back on my prescribed medication ASAP.” The prison system simply explains: “You were not approved for this medication by the regional medical director in Lansing. Will forward your request.” He asks: “So I’m wondering what I shall do in the meantime. I’ve been waiting since I arrived on December 27!” He's in pain.
Mr. B is a chemist, biologist and geologist who, while working as a civilian contractor, was accidentally exposed to nerve agents. As a result, he has severe COPD. Prior to his arrest, he was told by doctors to sleep in a chair to reduce lung problems. At most prison units he was allowed to do this…until February 5, when without warning the prison refused to allow him to sleep in a chair, and officials refuse to discuss it. Rumor is that this is retaliation because of some grievances he filed.
Mr. C had surgery that was apparently successful, but since then the scrotum swelled to 12 inches around. As it turns out, this probably was normal, and the swelling will go down, according to our experts, but there was no one there to explain this to him and avoid this unnecessary angst.
Mr. D has Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diarrhea…he’s getting no help from the prison health people nor his family. He’s going to the bathroom 12-20 times a day, and still goes in his pants and in his bed. His roommate complains, and he hates living this way.
The lawyers who specialize in this kind of thing won’t touch cases like these…at least not until grievances are filed, and not without lots of printed documents and substantial proof that the neglect and abuse is willful.
The 8th Amendment says that cruel and unusual punishments may not be inflicted. The amendment is meant to safeguard Americans against excessive punishments. In other words, for Messrs. A, B, C and D, the incarceration is their punishment. Inadequate medical care may not be dumped on them as additional punishment.
This shoddy medical practice may not meet the criteria for attorneys, but I contend that it’s cruel and unusual punishment.