CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE (CORRECTIONAL MEDICINE) is a field of medicine focusing on the delivery of healthcare to inmates in correctional facilities such as prisons and jails. Correctional Healthcare providers include physicians, nurses, psychologists, and behavioral health professionals who devote all or part of their time to caring for the incarcerated population. Since there is no specific training or board certification for physicians practicing Correctional Healthcare, most providers have a general medical degree or are trained in the specialties of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, or Emergency Medicine. A large percentage of Correctional Healthcare is delivered by for-profit corporations that secure contracts at facilities across the United States. In other situations, healthcare is delivered by state or federal employees. In either situation, Correctional Medicine providers work under challenging conditions to treat a diverse inmate population with an incredible scope of acute and chronic medical conditions.
Due to the unique environment and constraints of the Correctional Healthcare system, medical negligence claims arising in correctional facilities differ from community-based malpractice complaints. For example, in addition to medical negligence, most complaints allege neglect, deliberate indifference, delay in access to care, inadequate treatment, and/or lack of consultation with specialists. Deliberate indifference (42 U.S.C. 1983), whether pled under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment (applicable to convicted prisoners or pretrial detainees, respectively), is a particularly common claim. Allegations of deliberate indifference intertwine with medical issues when inmates assert that deliberate and intentional choices were made to deprive them of necessary medical or psychiatric treatment.
Litigation against Correctional Healthcare providers may involve physicians, nurses, psychologists, behavioral health professionals, and the companies that employ them. Whether defending or prosecuting cases, it is important to recognize that the standard of care in correctional facilities may be entirely different from standards in community medicine practices. This is due to the restricted environment and practical constraints associated with Correctional Medicine. As a result, only experienced Correctional Healthcare providers can analyze and credibly testify about applicable standards of care. Although other experts may speak to causation and harm, issues involving the standard of care must be left to experienced Correctional Medicine experts.