Penal Harm Embedded Within Prison/Jail Health Care: Individual, Family and Community Consequences

M. Katherine Maeve, University of South Carolina

The notion of penal harm refers to the social perspective wherein society wishes to not only deprive prisoners of their liberty, but also wishes the sine qua non of jails and prisons to be about the actual infliction of pain and suffering. Numerous examples within various prison and jail contexts illustrate how health care is structured in ways that effect penal harm upon prisoners. This conflation between the structuring of health care and penal harm also requires that individual practitioners participate in delivering health care in ways that both sustain and re-create penal harm through their individual practices. Mostly, the practice of health care from a penal harm perspective is so routinized, mundane, and banal, that it passes for standard operating procedure. And, our "normalized" routines are practiced without the slightest thought that they are, or could be, wrong. And, those who do think about it are quickly disposed of. Exemplars will be presented that illustrate penal harm health care (with its intended and unintended consequences) for individuals, families and communities. Ultimately, it will be argued, these consequences seriously impact the public health and social well-being of everyone in society.

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Updated 05/20/2006