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Healthcare in prison

My name is Thao Nguyen who is a student at the University of Washington. I am currently taking a course called Introduction to the Anthropology of Institution. In this course, I learned about the system in jails/prisons including the healthcare system. Recently, I read the book called Jailcare by Carolyn Surfrin which focuses on the prisoners’ healthcare while in custody. As I am passionate about individuals’ healthcare and I believe that every individual has the right to access to the standardized healthcare. It is one’s basic needs. No patient deserves to receive the inequity in healthcare. I am writing this to inform you about an issue which you might not be aware of which is about the racial and class systemic inequalities embedded in the U.S. health care system that has a harmful effect on people of color in prison or jail, black pregnant women in this case. I acknowledge that the U.S. healthcare system is a tremendous system, but I am hoping that after reading this letter, you are aware of the healthcare system in jails and prisons and I hope that you and other policymakers can think of solutions to make it better for prisoners as healthcare needs are essential to everyone including prisoner. We all have heard about the incarceration disproportionally all over social media. The number of incarcerated women is twice as men. In the book, Carolyn Surfrin claims that “Blacks have been disproportionately targeted, imprisoned at a rate that more than five times that of white” (page 8). Not only the color people are targeted, but there is also evidence proving that black individuals are more likely to get unfair treatments than others by the staffs. Throughout her research, she focuses on Black pregnant women. She learns that most of the women she works with claim that jail is the only place where they can access to healthcare and get their prenatal care which they know impossible when they are outside of the jail. Carolyn Surfrin quotes that “poverty, drug addiction, racism, and recidivism are inextricably linked, in a complex carceral system in which prisoners know that they will not only be subjected to a regimented, disciplinary environment, but that they will receive certain services, many of which they do not receive outside of jail”. The healthcare prisoners are receiving is inadequate. The majority of women whom Carolyn works with are black, which There are two recommendations which I hope to reduce the health inequalities among prison populations. First of all, we need standardization and oversight of healthcare in prisons and jails. Carolyn Surfrin mentions that although prisoners do have a constitutional right to healthcare based on a Supreme Court, which states that prisons and jails must provide healthcare to prisoners and to not do so is cruel and unusual punishment, it is not enough to reduce the health inequalities in jail and prisons.

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