The Privilege of Being Sick in the California Department of Corrections

by Cynthia Russaw, VSPW-SHU
It is a privilege to be sick in the California Department of Corrections. We as prisoners have no legal, no constitutional right to be sick at any time. We are classified as working machines. We are sick only when they allow us to be sick, and that’s when we drop to our knees, half dead, when our hearts stop, our blood pressure is high. We are the walking dead. We are not allowed to be sick, we have to run the prison system.
Without inmate slave labor the prison would not function. “Sick,” suffering from illness, physically, mentally, emotionally. We are not allowed the privilege. A medical emergency is defined as a sudden unexpected medical occurrence demanding immediate action. CDC defines a medical emergency as no less than death.
Allow me to enlighten you on how the medical system works. They give you a CDC 7362 form “Health Care Service Request” which says “you may be charged $5.00 for each health care visit.” Before you can even think about being seen you must fill out, sign and submit the form. Immediately they remove the $5 from your trust account. If you are lucky, in a day or in a month, you sit for hours in any kind of weather waiting to be seen. At the last minute they might turn you away. You tell the MTA (“medically trained” assistant) you have a common cold. She/he tells you to wait. That’s another hour or two. Then the nurse comes to the door and tells you they don’t treat common colds, drink lots of water. No vital signs are measured. So one day to one month later, six to eight hours and $5 later all you get is tired, sicker from the weather and told to drink water.
One or two days later you pass out with temperature of 101 or 102 and they have the nerve to ask why you didn’t come in before. They get busy doing nothing, charge you another $5, give you a Motrin and tell you to buy medicine on the canteen. “Motrin” is the cure-all for everything. Treatments for communicable diseases, chronic diseases, extended care, nursing or emergency services are a joke. Follow-up health care, dental or mental health services are pathetic.
To California Department of Corrections we are not human.
They make rules as they go and change them even faster. Why was I given surgery I did not consent to, nor had any knowledge of? A little over a year ago I was to have a cyst removed from my ovary. I woke up with a complete hysterectomy. When I asked why, I was told they “thought” I had severe abdominal pain, digestive trouble, pain in my pelvis. They “thought!”
I have to laugh to keep from crying. They did other damage that was not there before they went in, which will cause me problems for the rest of my life. I was told: look, you received a $3,700 surgery for free, you are too old to have children, you don’t have to worry about a period and you don’t have cancer. That justified the unnecessary complete hysterectomy! I have never been with child. Did I plan to? Yes, absolutely.
I wanted to find out more of what happened. Later I was told they never really performed a hysterectomy, that I don’t need supplemental female hormones, there have not been any changes in my body. What really took place? Why so much deception?
Yes, it is truly a privilege to be sick in the CDC. A privilege I am more than willing to do without.