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Poor dental care in prison makes reentry harder

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PBS News Hour reports that while receiving prison health care, incarcerated people struggle in particular to get dental care, and most often, prisons will opt for a cheap and quick alternative. “Basically the answer is, ‘you have a toothache? Yank it,’” explains Nanete Sorich, public affairs manager for Pioneer Human Services, which provides reentry services to people leaving prison. Dental issues are either dismissed for too long or are quickly dealt with in a way that causes long term damage, and after leaving prison, the consequences of missing treatment fall on those formerly incarcerated individuals, adding challenges to an already difficult transition to life outside. PBS observes that many states have in recent decades shifted from state-run health care to contracted privately-run prison health care. This has been the focus of several lawsuits, including in Arizona, where observed inadequate care under a private company has caused several deaths and injuries. Alison Hardy with the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit that advocates for incarcerated people, was an attorney in a similar lawsuit in California. “One of the biggest barriers that we found to the delivery of health care was that [privatized prison health care providers] were not paying their dentists enough,” she said.

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