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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

Abstract

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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Notes

1.
1. The Magna Carta (1215) devoted three chapters (20-22) to this subject.
2.
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).
3.
3. See Steinwald et al. (1973), details summarized in Correctional Health Care Report, 6, 1 (2004); see also U.S. Comptroller General (December 22, 1978), Report to the Congress: A federal strategy is needed to help improve medical and dental care in prisons and jails.
4.
4. Compare Battle v. Anderson, 376 F. Supp. 402, 415-6 (E.D. Okla. 1974) with Battle v. Anderson, 788 F.2d 1421, 1426-7 (10th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Wittenberg, 330 F. Supp. 707, 718 (N.D. Ohio 1971), aff’d sub nom. Jones v. Metzer, 456 F.2d 854 (6th Cir. 1972) with Jones v. Wittenberg, 509 F. Supp. 653, 684-87 (N.D. Ohio 1980); Lightfoot v. Walker, 486 F. Supp. 504 (S.D. Ill. 1980) with Lightfoot v. Walker, 619 F. Supp. 1481, 1489 (S.D. Ill. 1985), aff’d, 826 F.2d 516 (7th Cir. 1987); Finney v. Arkansas Board of Correction, 505 F.2d 194, 202-04 (8th Cir. 1974), subsequent order aff’d sub nom. Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678 (1978) with Finney v. Mabry, 546 F. Supp. 628, 631 (E.D. Ark. 1982).
5.
5. Compare National Commission on Correctional Health Care, Report of the Accreditation Committee (2006) with Report of the Accreditation Committee (1987).
6.
6. See Journal of Correctional Health Care (National Commission on Correctional Health Care), Correctional Health Care Report (Civic Research Institute), CorrectCare (National Commission on Correctional Health Care), and CorHealth Journal (American Correctional Health Services Association). 7. See, generally, National Commission on Correctional Health Care, The health status of soon-to-be released inmates: A report to Congress (2004).

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

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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

Notes

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

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