Michigan prisoners struggle to receive dental care under state policy

A Detroit-based lawyer is suing Michigan's prison system on behalf of prisoners who say they are unable to receive adequate dental care, according to a July 22 NBC News report.

Under a Michigan Department of Corrections policy, prisoners cannot receive dental treatment in the first two years of their sentence unless it is urgent. According to the report, dozens of prisoners have reported dental issues, including decaying teeth and pain, and had to choose between having fixable teeth extracted or living with their conditions.

The state's policy is reportedly one of many in the country that make it difficult for prisoners to receive dental care. For example, Florida prisoners cannot receive crowns or bridges, and prisoners in the federal prison system cannot receive dentures unless their sentence is at least three years.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson Chris Gautz told NBC News the policy does not violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. He declined to give NBC News comment on individual allegations, but added that the policy was started to ensure prisoners serving long sentences received routine treatment.

The state's corrections department reportedly said dentists treat urgent problems but overall perform more fillings than extractions.

According to the report, the case may go to trial next year.

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