Access to healthcare is a basic human right, including for those who are incarcerated. Inmates have the right to receive medical care, including prescription medications, while serving their sentence. But how exactly do inmates get their medicine? In this article, we’ll explore the process of providing medical care and medications to inmates in correctional facilities.

Medical Screening and Evaluation

Upon admission to a correctional facility, inmates undergo a medical screening and evaluation to identify any pre-existing conditions or medical needs. This screening includes a review of medical records and a physical examination. The results of the screening are used to develop an individualized healthcare plan for each inmate.

Pharmaceutical Services

Pharmaceutical services in correctional facilities are typically provided by contracted pharmacy services or by on-site pharmacies operated by the correctional facility. These pharmacies are staffed by licensed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who work under the supervision of a medical director.

Medication Administration

Inmates receive medications through a variety of methods, depending on the medication and the facility’s policies. The most common methods of medication administration include:

Medication Dispensing: Inmates receive medications directly from the pharmacy or through the facility’s medical unit.

Pill Line: Inmates receive their medication at specific times of the day, usually during a designated pill line.

Unit Dose Dispensing: Medications are pre-packaged in individual doses and dispensed to inmates as needed.

Medical Visits

Inmates who require ongoing medical care, such as for chronic conditions, may have regular medical visits with a physician or other healthcare provider. These visits may occur in the medical unit or through telemedicine services.

Medication Refills and Renewals

Inmates can request medication refills or renewals through the facility’s medical unit or pharmacy. The request is reviewed by a healthcare provider, who determines if the medication is still necessary and appropriate for the inmate’s condition.

Medication Security

In correctional facilities, medications are stored securely and dispensed only to the inmate for whom they are prescribed. Facilities have strict policies and procedures in place to prevent medication diversion, theft, and abuse.


Providing medical care, including medication, to inmates in correctional facilities is essential to ensure their health and well-being. The process of providing medications involves medical screening and evaluation, pharmaceutical services, medication administration, medical visits, and medication refills and renewals. Medications are stored securely and dispensed only to the inmate for whom they are prescribed. While the process can be complex, it is necessary to ensure that inmates receive the medical care they need while incarcerated.