The Hippocratic Oath, often reduced to the four words “First do no harm,” is one of the oldest professional pledges in Western society. Still preserved and taken by medical professionals in various forms today, it is a commitment to provide patients with healing care, to protect their privacy, and so on.

In the profit-driven medical industries of capitalist society the pledge amounts to little more than rhetoric, but even worse is the context of U.S. prisons (the world’s largest prison system) where its purpose is turned in its head to one of “First do no good.”

The grossness of medical neglect and abuse in Amerikan prisons would likely shock many in society, and is such a common condition that almost any case of prisoners’ medical treatment can be given as proof of this inhumane reality. In fact I need look no further for a random example than the prisoner housed in the cell right next to me here at Virginia’s Nottoway Correctional (sic!) Center.


My neighbor is Jaxon Chavez Reyes, #1527438. Jaxon has had not one but two recent serious injuries needing medical care, which was essentially not given. As a result he has suffered a now permanently broken jaw and partial blindness in his left eye.

His first injury, a broken jaw, happened on June 27, 2022 while he was playing soccer. Jaxon immediately submitted emergency complaints of needing medical care, and was seen by the prison dentist who examined him and declared she could not treat him. He was sent to an outside hospital for x-rays that confirmed his jaw was broken, but he was returned to the prison without treatment.

It took him and other prisoners complaining that he needed care for his jaw for him to be sent out and admitted to another hospital on July 12, 2022, where he was belatedly scheduled to receive surgery to repair his jaw on July 15, 2022. However, on July 14th, the day before his scheduled surgery, prison officials removed him from the hospital and returned him to prison without treatment.

When he and other prisoners continued protesting his denial and need of care, he was taken back to the hospital two weeks later on August 1, 2022; where doctors told him it was by then too late to treat his broken jaw, since the delays and interruptions in care by the prison and it’s medical staff caused his jaw to progress too far in healing in its broken state, so that now he has been left with an untreated, permanently deformed, and painful jaw.

Jaxon’s second untreated injury is even more egregious, and stems from the disregard and inhumane treatments prisoners suffer as slave laborers. Jaxon works in the prison’s kitchen for only a nominal payment of a few cents per hour. Although he is forced to work with hazardous chemicals and under other dangerous conditions, he and the other prisoner workers receive no protective equipment or gear, and receive no safety or health instructions or precautions, as is given workers in society.

On July 5, 2022, a concentrated chemical degreaser called Native Green was sprayed into his left eye, causing severe irritation, burning, and redness. The warning label on this chemical warns that skin and eye protection should be worn by anyone working with the agent, and a poison control center and emergency care should be immediately consulted should skin or eye contact occur. Also immediate flushing of the affected areas.

When the chemical got into his eye Jaxon immediately sought emergency medical help, but was told by the prison medical staff it was not an emergency, and he was left to merely rinse his own eye with water. Nothing was done to treat his eye or even determine what the chemical was that got in it.

It wasn’t until his eye became blood red, he lost vision in it, and several other prisoners went with him to the medical department to demand care for him that he was sent out to a hospital several days later; where doctors immediately questioned why the prison’s medical staff waited so long to get him to a hospital.

At the hospital he had to wait several hours for the prison to find out and inform the doctors what the chemical was that contaminated his eye. Then came efforts to treat his eye, which yet again was by then too little too late. As a result Jaxon is now partially blind in his left eye.


Jaxon’s experiences came at the hands of the same prison medical department and staff that has left me with untreated cancer for nearly a year, and untested for over six months after they knew that cancer specific blood tests showed that I likely had cancer. They have been deliberately allowing needless delays in testing and care that will assure the spread and growth of my cancer so that it will almost certainly prove fatal.

We are subjected to extreme suffering and permanent injury, and even murder by medical neglect, at the hands of an indifferent and negligent medical bureaucracy that simply doesn’t care. Many of these prison medical officials are people who cannot find work in society because of lack of professional ethics or concern for patients. In prison jobs they are free to commit the grossest malpractice because the people of color and poor people who are the disproportionate targets of U.S. mass imprisonment are demonized in the public eye, as we have been throughout Amerikan history, so that the public remains indifferent and blinded to our exploitation and brutality at the hands of this profit-driven system. This is the basis of the hypocritical standard of harm we suffer at the hands of the prison medical industry. An industry that, like the public medical industry, must be dismantled and replaced with one that is people-and not profit-centered.

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!


Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *