The Return of the Medical Model: Disease and the Meaning of Imprisonment from John Howard to Brown v. Plata

40 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2013

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Forty years after "the medical model" — as the rehabilitative-oriented penology that dominated American correctional systems from World War II until the 1970s was widely known — began to be abandoned, Brown v. Plata suggests the imminent return of medicine and the problem of disease to our public imagination of the prison and our constitutional understanding of humane punishment. With its shocking portraits of prisoners afflicted with complex chronic mental and physical illnesses largely abandoned by the modern state to a chaos more reminiscent of medieval jails than modern prisons, Plata depicts a correctional system that has drifted far indeed from the old correctional medical model with its aspiration to scientifically tested penal treatments. But in Plata’s mandate that California significantly reduce its prison population in order to implement sweeping reforms in its delivery of health care, along with its exposure of the deep hold that chronic illness (both mental and physical) has on prison populations, we can forecast the emergence of a new medical model.

Suggested Citation

Simon, Jonathan Steven, The Return of the Medical Model: Disease and the Meaning of Imprisonment from John Howard to Brown v. Plata (2013). Harvard Civil Rights- Civil Liberties Law Review (CR-CL), Vol. 48, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2343813
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