This article concentrates on inmate health care needs of local and regional jails, not the state-run prison system.
Prior to 2003, responsibility for inmates’ health needs was largely a gray area. While it was widely agreed that sheriffs and jails were not responsible for health problems that arose before they took charge of an inmate, law enforcement officers still had to ensure that health care was provided for everyone in their custody.
It took one significant incident to shed light on a problem that plagues the entire system. While incarcerated, an inmate in Southwest Virginia had all of his teeth removed and dentures fitted. It should have been clear that this inmate’s poor dental health was a pre-existing condition, but the local sheriff was stuck with the bill.