Several days ago, the First District Court of Appeals held that Florida may privatize its prison healthcare system. This broadly means that rather than assuming responsibility for the care of its prisoners, a private healthcare contractor or set of contractors will be tasked with that challenge. While this decision may ease certain budgetary burdens plaguing the state, it may truly imperil the ability of prisoners to receive the healthcare to which they are entitled.
The criminal defense system operates in part to hold individuals accountable who have committed various illegal activities. However, those individuals do not lose their right to receive adequate healthcare if they are sentenced to any length of imprisonment. On the contrary, the law mandates that prisoners be granted access to a certain level of healthcare when they are imprisoned.
Many individuals and organizations are expressing sincere concern that privatizing Florida’s prison healthcare system will lead to an unacceptable level of care for inmates. Private prison healthcare contractors have been criticized, fined and otherwise held accountable in other states for severely compromising inmate care in the interest of saving money. In some situations, the level of care inmates have received have inspired them to riot and otherwise react in dangerous ways in order to insist that their rights be enforced.
Other private prison healthcare systems have been indicted for inhumane conditions and inmate deaths as a result of their approaches and practices. Though concerned Floridians may not have the power to reverse the court’s decision, they can remain educated about conditions as they evolve and demand reform if prisoners are denied access to adequate care in the future.
Source: ThinkProgress, “Appeals Court Allows Florida To Privatize Prison Health Care, Ignoring Rampant Abuse Of Inmates,” Aviva Shen, June 5, 2013