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Forum Post: Petition: Ensure that persons jailed awaiting trial can take their required prescription medications

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 26, 2012, 2:56 p.m. EST by mserfas (652) from Ashland, PA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The White House has set up a great new site at https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions where people can join together to make policy suggestions. It is a very small but very much appreciated step toward a more functional digital democracy.

I've set up a draft petition on that site concerning several flagrant injustices regarding the denial of required prescription medicines to people awaiting trial. Supposedly "innocent until proven guilty", if they were wealthy they would post bail without batting an eye. Instead, they are forced to do without psychiatric medication that every health authority warns never to abruptly stop taking, or to do without insulin which as type I diabetics they suffer permanent brain damage without. One man was held in solitary for two years on "suicide watch" for a charge he was never convicted of, but was denied psychiatric care. Not even the worst of these, but dearest to some people here should be the case of Marcel Johnson, who (as described here earlier) was arrested for sitting on a blanket at a protest, kept in jail for extra time solely because as a homeless person he had no address, was denied the psychiatric medication he required, and then under those circumstances got into some kind of altercation for a guard which will lead to a lifetime in jail under a "three strikes" law.

In order for a petition to succeed, it needs to get 25,000 signatures in just one month - obviously, a difficult task. I know I don't have the political mojo to pull that off myself, but maybe some people here do. So I'll offer you the draft I've composed, pending your comments and advice. Since I haven't started the clock on this yet, if someone more politically skillful would like to submit his own version I'd be more than happy to leave mine unposted and sign the other. The text I've come up with so far (800 character max) is:

Stephen Slevin was kept in solitary for two years under "suicide watch" without receiving effective treatment for depression. Marcel Johnson was jailed for being homeless, denied psychiatric medication, and now faces life in jail. ( http://tinyurl.com/7nkkgfj ) Diabetics like Jose Vargas are denied the right to track their blood sugar and inject appropriate insulin. ( http://tinyurl.com/7woytsr http://tinyurl.com/7fclmkj ) Severe injuries and multimillion dollar federal lawsuits could be prevented by appropriate federal regulation of interstate commerce. ( http://tinyurl.com/73hdbbm )

Require states to rapidly consult pharmacies to confirm prescriptions for out of state pretrial detainees who are "innocent until proven guilty", and optionally to protect their own residents the same way.

Now the legislative remedy I've hinted at is limited, since realistically it would be a miracle to get anything at all done. I've left out many specifics. I've kept within the boundary of what a proper reading of the Constitution might allow, namely a measure to protect the safety of interstate travellers in some increasingly Third World judicial conditions. Rather than generally focusing on the perhaps unpopular notion of health care for criminals, I'm focusing only on access to medicine for the people who have not been proven guilty of anything but being too poor to afford bail (which itself is a constitutional violation). Besides, apparently it is the first few days in jail which are the most problematic in many instances, thus where a federal time limit would do the most good. Clearly some other related reforms aren't a bad idea either, but you need to start somewhere.

Ultimately, denying prisoners access to medicine is also a start - for those who wish to deny health care to the poor altogether. Logically, so long as people can get treatment in prison, you can't condemn them to die by poverty on the outside, because they can always do something criminal. So as terrible as these cases may be, I see them potentially as the start of something worse. Let's figure out a way to stop this.

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