Prison for twenty, institutionalized forever?

Thursday, February 11, 2016
Warren Ferguson
Warren J. Ferguson, MD
University of Massachusetts Medical School

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.