Authors

Andrew R. Hayes

Document Type

Supreme Court Commentaries

Publication Date

3-9-2021

Keywords

Prison reform, medical transitions, Eighth Amendment, healthcare law, healthcare policy

Subject Category

Constitutional Law

Abstract

Correctional institutions have an Eighth Amendment obligation to provide healthcare to inmates. In practice though, jails and prisons struggle to provide adequate care to millions of incarcerated individuals, roughly half of whom have at least one chronic health condition. As a result, harsh conditions of confinement routinely threaten the health of inmates who require specific medical accommodations. Recognizing this risk, the courts hold corrections institutions liable for harm when government officials are “deliberately indifferent” to prisoner medical needs.

Beginning with the HITECH Act of 2009, mainstream medicine embraced tools that eliminate gaps in medical communication. Today, most Americans rely on networks of healthcare providers who can seamlessly exchange information about their treatment. Correctional institutions, despite the formidable health needs of inmates, are infrequently connected to such information-sharing networks. Corrections officials who are “deliberately indifferent” to these tools may run afoul of the Constitution.

This Note assesses the Eighth Amendment right to medical care in the context of ubiquitous networks for health information sharing. It finds that correctional health systems often fall short of the constitutional obligation to communicate medical information. I argue that legislators and the courts should adopt clear standards for correctional-medical information sharing which protect the right to a safe transition of medical care.

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