Cancer and Prison: If You Have Cancer Can You Go to Jail?
Healthcare in prison can be a tricky situation to navigate. Healthcare providers need to be mindful of a facility’s rules and regulations, putting an inmate in the crosshairs between getting proper care and following the rules.
And, although prisoners have a legal right to healthcare just like people outside of prisons do, that doesn’t mean they always get fair and quality care. Studies show that many inmates do not tend to get the care they deserve when they’re in prison.
So, what happens if an inmate has cancer, one of the scariest and deadliest types of conditions that often requires aggressive treatments? This article can give you some insight into what to expect if you or a loved one has cancer in prison.
Cancer and Prison: Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions are some of the most common ones we get about cancer and prison. Remember that every facility is different, so how one prison treats inmates with cancer may differ from how others handle it. These answers are simply general information to help you understand how cancer typically works in terms of jail time.
If You Have Cancer Can You Go to Jail?
Let’s first address what happens if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and have been sentenced to jail. Will you still have to go, or will the judge change your sentencing?
In most cases, a cancer diagnosis will probably not change the results of your sentence. For example, just look at this case where a woman who stole money could not be resentenced to home confinement. Instead, her sentence of up to seven years in prison remained.
But, this depends on the judge and your crime. If you have a small crime in the eyes of the court, there’s a chance that you may have a reduced sentence or a lesser sentence. Some judges are easier to sway than others, and some might have a lot of sympathy for your condition while others won’t have an ounce.
In short, you should expect to still have to do at least some jail time if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
What Happens if You Get Diagnosed with Cancer in Jail?
People might also get diagnosed with cancer while they’re in jail. What happens in that case? Usually, you’ll have prison staff’s help to get you set up with a healthcare provider that can give you the care you need.
Because cancer often involves various specialized treatments, you might need to leave the facility to complete them and have your exams. If this happens, the prison will set up transportation and anything else you’ll need to get to your appointments.
But, everything will need to go through the prison’s healthcare system, which can vary in different facilities. Your facility’s healthcare supervisor will be the one to contact doctors and set up appointments on your behalf. They’ll also arrange transportation, medication administration, and other things you’ll need to assist your diagnosis and treatment.
If you haven’t yet been diagnosed but want to get checked for cancer, you’ll need to speak with the person in charge of your prison’s healthcare system. Many facilities require you to fill out a form indicating the symptoms you’re experiencing so that they can set up an exam for you.
You may need to wait several weeks for your initial appointment. It would be best if you made the severity of your symptoms clear so that you can see a doctor as quickly as possible.
Do Prisoners Get Cancer Treatment?
Yes, prisoners can get cancer treatment. However, the quality and speed of care can vary significantly between facilities. Prisoners aren’t always subject to the best cancer care as non-prisoners are, and some doctors may refuse to treat inmates, depending on their ethical beliefs. In other words, it can be a messy situation for some.
With that said, you, as an inmate, do have the right to cancer treatment if you need it. Some prisons may have you get treated at your facility with chemotherapy or other treatments if the facility can administer them. You’ll need to be transported to a hospital or health care center for treatment in other cases.
Most inmates will also have security guards near them during their treatment if they have to go outside of the hospital. This depends mostly on the type of jail you’re in and the severity of your crime.
Who Pays for Cancer Treatments if You’re in Prison?
Suppose you have a health insurance plan, including Medicaid or Medicare, before going to prison. In that case, your coverage will likely change or become unable to pay for your healthcare needs while you’re incarcerated. Some states allow their Medicaid and Medicare plans to suspend a person’s plan while they’re in jail rather than cancel it.
However, prisoners can still access health coverage through the prison system, which generally works through a county or state health coverage plan. Through these plans, you’ll need to pay a copay for care, which is usually only a few dollars for each doctor’s appointment. When you’re probably making only a few dollars per month through your prison job, though, those copays can add up.
If possible, it’s a good idea to see if a friend or family member can help you pay your copays while you’re in jail so that you can get the care you need.
Do Inmates with Cancer Get Treated Better?
You might think that getting diagnosed with cancer while in prison might help you get some sympathy from the prison staff. But that’s usually not the case. You should expect to be treated like other inmates regardless of your health status.
Some research points to inmates not receiving fair treatment even though they have a cancer diagnosis. Their ailments tend to get lumped into any health condition other inmates have rather than with the urgency they need for treatment. Prisoners may face new sets of challenges and receive delayed care that could worsen their cancer and symptoms.
However, this is largely up to the facility. Some handle health conditions promptly while others might not have a good system set up to handle serious illnesses like cancer.
What Happens with Your Healthcare After Prison?
You might be wondering what happens when you are released from prison to your healthcare. Your care will switch from being the prison’s responsibility to yours, so you must know the names of your doctors, treatments, and medications. You’ll now be responsible for setting up your appointments and getting to and from them.
You’ll also need to get your insurance squared away. If you were on Medicaid or Medicare, check with your state’s health department to see if your plan was suspended or if you will need to reapply. You may also need to do the same if you had a private insurance plan.
Having Cancer in Prison
Having cancer in prison may require you to jump through more loopholes than you would have to if you weren’t an inmate. However, it’s important to remember that you still have the right to proper healthcare and to advocate for yourself to receive it.
Stay in communication with your prison’s healthcare system to make sure you understand your diagnosis, treatments, and care plan. Keep them updated with your symptoms and let your family and friends know about your treatments and medications. Your support system can help you get through this challenging time to get you on the road to better health.