A “Gold Standard” For Inmate Medical Care In California


The federal receiver in charge of prison medicine for California considers one facility the gold standard for inmate care, says Southern California Public Radio. The California Medical Facility at Vacaville looks and feels different than other state prisons. The halls are wider to ease the way for inmates in wheelchairs. Those halls are busier, too. The prison's chief medical officer, Dr. Joseph Bick, says that's because most of these prisoners pose little security risk. “Most of them move about the facility unescorted,” says Bick. “They have a little pass. They may be going to school, work or to a doctor's appointment to get their blood drawn.”

Bick points into the prison's gymnasium window. Most prisons have to use gyms as dorms. Here, the inmates use the gym to exercise. There's no overcrowding, because to be in the California Medical Facility, an inmate has to be chronically or terminally ill. “The overwhelming majority of the 3000 prisoners here have some major medical problem, often multiple,” Bick says. “You see them walking around, they may be going to work or school. But they may have hepatitis, major mental illness, HIV disease, diabetes, asthma.” The prison's medical mandate inspires a professional tone between the staff and inmates. Bick says he treats inmates with respect, which earns their trust. Prisons often treat inmates in converted cells, broom closets or storage rooms. Bick's clinic is a real clinic. It’s clean, white and quiet. Bick says one of the biggest unexpected benefits of that clinic is that it changes the way his patients behave. “They come into an environment that is clearly designated as a medical environment, their voices come down.” Bick says his modern clinic also attracts a better staff. But he says it doesn't administer “Cadillac care.”

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