California Needs Prison Health Care Reform Essay

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California, the Golden State, a place where people from around the world come to for the

consistent sunshine, and fun-filled atmosphere. California is home to the largest prison

population in the United States. There are now thirty-three institutions, which house

approximately 170,000 inmates. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), it costs

taxpayers about $51,000 per a year to house, feed, clothe, and provide healthcare for each

inmate. The health care costs about $16,000, which includes, dental, medical, speciality care,

mental health, and medication for each inmate (LAO, 18 Mar 2010). This state is in the worst

financial crisis it has ever experienced. With vital programs being cut, teachers being
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In Plata, et al. v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, this class action lawsuit

addressed the violation of inmates rights to adequate health care. Believe it or not, "prison

inmates are the only Americans with the constitutional right to health care" (Kaplan). The

inmates housed in California's prison system were subjected to substandard health care, which

lead to further illnesses and/or death (Plata, et al. v. Schwarzengegger). As a result, the state

lost this court case and the inmates began to receive above the minimum standard of health care.

Because it is so broad, the 8th Amendment is left open for interpretation . Many would

perceive, "free from cruel and unusual punishment", as free from torture, or free from being fed

bread and water. Due to the inmates not receiving adequate health care, and dying as a result,

judges decided the inmates were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates are required

to have health screenings, diagnostic tests, surgeries as needed, and a full array of medical

services, at no cost. This guaranteed health care is not provided to law-abiding citizens. Why is

this? Is it because quality inmate health care is vital to public health? Who decided what type of

care and how much will be spent on inmate health care? Definitely not the taxpayers. In addition to federal law, the California Code of

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