Prison Radio
Kenneth Zamarron

Ask any patient what their greatest need is, and they will tell you it is the trust of their doctor. Trust that they will judge their illness and not judge their social class. Trust that they will see their intrinsic value. I removed my headphones that blocked out the blaring sounds from the prison dormitory. An elderly man stood where I was just completing my burpees. He introduced himself as Mr. Brown. He was dressed in his state-issued blues, proudly wearing his American Legion hat. I noticed all the various shiny metals on it. Mr. Brown did apologize for interrupting me during my workout. I sensed his uneasiness as he stared at the gray concrete ground with his thumbs in his pants with his fingers pointed to the floor. To alter the weather awkwardness I asked, “Did you ever go to war?” He lifted his head calmly, looked at me in the eyes with a stormy expression, and replied “‘Nam”. He then said, “I have heard that you are good at litigating medical issues, Ken.” I reply that I have done my best at learning the arduous task of what prisoner’s constitutional rights are for a few years now and that I have had success fighting for my rights in federal court. Brown then said that he had heard of my wins in court. He proceeded to tell me that he had been suffering from an unknown skin condition since 2019 and that he was frequently receiving little to no treatment. He showed me several groups and [unintelligible], black scabs on the back of his scalp. It was actively draining puss and blood. And he often felt ill with fever-like symptoms. My stomach twisted with anger at the prison’s callousness, for ignoring an unmistakable and self-evident, serious medical issue for over six years. I stared at Mr. Brown and saw 1,825 days of an emotional shuffle of hopelessness, fearfulness, bitterness, and worthlessness. I am fully aware that most people would find it hard to regard it’s true that a medical system paid well over $100 million per year to care for its patients would in regular style, deliberately ignore obvious and serious signs of declining health. Or for-profit systems do, systems do not have hearts and minds. And when at the heart of the system is to save costs to deny care, The outcome is predictable: maltreatment and mistreatment. The honest truth is that prisoners are aware that few citizens care and that nearly all citizens are in accord with the fact that we are vilified class that is shut out and blacklisted. Thus, few care about the medical treatment we receive from for-profit medical providers that create policies, customs, and practices of surrendering patient care to cut costs. I knew what Brown would ask before he asked. I have seen it and many hopeless faces. He stated: “I do not have much, but I will pay you a year’s worth for my state pay if you help me, Ken”. I then told Brown that he didn’t have to give me a penny, that I will simply do my best to get him seen by a board-certified dermatologist. I started to review Brown’s WorldCat organized documents. There is no debate that Brown had diligently put medical staff on notice that his condition conditionally–consistently worsened over time. It was clear that the for-profit medical provider gave Mr. Brown circular treatment that was proven to be ineffective. I wrote a healthcare request form, which incarcerated individuals use to receive medical appointments and a healthcare request form. I noted all the past delays in care and stated any future delays in standard medical care–that is a referral to a dermatologist–would be resolved by the federal courts. Within weeks, Brown received notification that he was approved and scheduled to see a dermatologist. He was overjoyed that he was finally approved to have a consultation with a specialist. The dermatologist prescribed Mr. Brown treatment that greatly reduced inflammation and drainage as the dermatologist performed tests to finally diagnose Mr. Brown’s unknown skin condition. One was–one result came back already: Mr. Brown’s humanity. Ask any patient what their greatest fear is and they will tell you it is not receiving help when they truly need it. As you listen, you will hear the cruelty for-profit systems are willing to do to make you die

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio