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Published Online: 1 January 2008

Thirty Years After Estelle v. Gamble: A Legal Retrospective

Publication: Journal of Correctional Health Care
Volume 14, Issue Number 1


For more than three decades, beginning with Estelle v. Gamble in 1976, the courts have protected the constitutional right of prisoners to health care. This article explores the historical antecedents of this protection and its present application to modern correctional health care delivery. Focusing on the three basic rights guaranteed by Estelle—the right to access to care, the right to care that is ordered, and the right to a professional medical judgment—the article traces the development of case law in the hundreds of lawsuits that have influenced correctional health care over these years. The article also addresses the “state of mind” component of constitutional liability, the requirement of “serious medical needs” as a predicate to suit, and the impact of privatization on correctional health care delivery. Finally, the article describes the impact of litigation on the promulgation of standards for correctional health care services and on the accreditation of correctional health care systems.

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2. Protection & Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities v. Mental Health & Addiction Services, 448 F.3d 119 (2d Cir. 2006), reported in New York Law Journal, May 16, 2006. For a critique of such disclosure, see Paris (2006).
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Published In

cover image Journal of Correctional Health Care
Journal of Correctional Health Care
Volume 14Issue Number 1January 2008
Pages: 11 - 20


Published in print: January 2008
Published online: 1 January 2008


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William J. Rold [email protected]
Prisoners’ Rights Project of The Legal Aid Society in New York


Address correspondence to: William J. Rold, JD, CCHP-A, 30 Vesey Street, Suite 1803, New York, NY 10007. [email protected]

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