Health Services


In the 1976 landmark decision of Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have a right to be free of “deliberate indifference to their serious health care needs.” Although there has been some fine-tuning, the legal landscape has remained largely unchanged.

In the hundreds of cases published since Estelle, three basic rights have emerged: the right to access to care, the right to care that is ordered, and the right to a professional medical judgment. The failure to honor these rights has resulted in protracted litigation, the awarding of damages and attorneys’ fees, and the issuance of injunctions regarding the delivery of health care services.

Correctional facilities interested in quality improvement have adopted policies and procedures, using NCCHC’s standards as a guide, that provide constitutional care to inmates and that protect them from litigation. Because litigation is so expensive, it is well worth the effort to achieve compliance with NCCHC’s standards and to gain accreditation.

Facilities that meet NCCHC’s standards and achieve accreditation are frequently regarded favorably by the courts. There are no correctional health care standards that are more rigorous nor an accreditation program as thorough as the National Commission on Correctional Health Care’s. In case after case, NCCHC’s standards have been held as the model to which correctional facilities should strive.

As resources become increasingly scarce and you are faced with doing more with less, compliance with NCCHC’s standards will help you avoid costly and time consuming litigation, and preserve expenditure of resources that would be better spent elsewhere. Your voluntary compliance with NCCHC’s standards demonstrates to government officials, the public and the courts your understanding of the legal requirements of correctional health care.

Download our flier on NCCHC accreditation »