Prison for twenty, institutionalized forever?

February 11, 2016
Warren Ferguson
Warren J. Ferguson, MD
Commonwealth Medicine

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a TMM about Jorge.  This is the beginning of that piece:

“Sitting before me was a  Latino male who looked like an NFL linebacker.  His shoulders were huge, with deltoids that looked like bowling balls.  Tattoos were everywhere. I was intimidated by his physical presence.  A chart review moments before told me that my next patient had recently finished a prison sentence.  My first impression: “Wow, he really fits the stereotype.” He’s a middle-aged man, he is a person of color and he looks like he could kill me in a matter of seconds with his bare hands.

After the usual introductions, we sized each other up.  He clearly wanted to make a good impression.  He wanted no part of the drug scene. Drugs led him to prison; he had done 20 and never wanted to return.  Exercise had become his passion.  He was committed to taking care of his mom, now chronically ill.

I clearly wanted him to know of my familiarity with the prison system.  I asked him where he did his time.  He was surprised that I knew that Walpole was CJ, Cedar Junction, that I knew of some of what led to doing time at CJ and that I knew the prison medical staff by name.  We had a very positive outcome for a first visit - that being mutual respect.”

Jorge (not his real name) has been my patient now for six years.  A few months ago, he sat in the exam room beaming: he finally got his apartment.  It took his commitment to sobriety and my commitment to advocacy to make this happen after six long years of homelessness.  Celebrating with a hug, I praised him for his commitment and hard work and he showered me with gratitude.  All was good.

At his next visit, he was Jorge the inmate.... Read the full blog.

Prison for twenty, institutionalized forever?