Chronic diseases are becoming a more important overall problem of health care inside the prison system, undergoing demographic aging, but Michigan mass incarceration policies have concentrated on contributing to the health care problem in the Michigan prison system, not solving them.
These problems are compounded by a life that is far more sedentary than it may have been in the past, which leads to other chronic diseases of the heart, lungs, and kidneys, including diabetes and cancer.
From a medical management perspective, the prison regime is even more problematic for combating chronic disease than infectious disease. A very different set of strategies and technologies are necessary to combat chronic disease. When infectious disease responds to medicine, it is fairly cheap to treat with antibiotics and better hygiene.
The cost curves of chronic illness: The only sustainable economic model requires meticulous management and routine care needs. Diabetes, for example, requires measurement of blood sugar throughout the day and every day, adjusting blood sugar and food intake along with insulin in some cases. Michigan Department of Corrections refuses to monitor a prisoner's blood sugar levels. Failure to provide this monitoring results in escalating damage to hands and feet, as well as to the kidney and degradation of kidney function and permanent kidney damage.
Michigan Department of Corrections' inability to monitor and track prisoners individually in real time is an inherent flaw undermining the prisoners' health. A public inquiry found that Michigan cannot give constitutional medical care to its prison population because its officials don't care and can't even imagine caring. The prison officials are unable to function effectively and suffer lack of will with respect to prisoner medical care. Michigan prison leadership is not just incompetent at medical care. It has established a penal logic antithetical to it. This leadership gap runs through all the other problems confronting health care delivery in the state of Michigan prisons and is the major factor in most critical poor medical care.
Shockingly and tellingly, the state of Michigan never disputed the main claims that the medical care was horrible. Since Michigan has thousands of prisoners serving life or very long terms, the proportion of inmates who are elderly will continue to grow. Nearly 1,700 people are in prison beds reserved for people needing geriatric care, dialysis, or other forms of chronic medical care.
The torture inside Michigan Department of Corrections medical care must be confronted at all costs, for the prisoners. We must stand together and confront the Michigan Department of Corrections.
-Rev. Edward Pinkney
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