California Prisons Cease ‘Dental Clearance’ Policy for Female Inmates
On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) nominee to head the prison health care system announced the suspension of a controversial policy that critics said pushed female inmates to undergo tooth extractions to qualify for off-site housing programs where they could live with their children, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
The policy, called dental clearance, applied to special training programs open to non-violent offenders, as well as vocational, rehabilitative and housing programs offered to women in smaller prison and community-based settings.
The women must be cleared of any pre-existing health problems before being allowed into the programs. Some of the women chose to have their teeth extracted rather than wait for them to be repaired to hasten their participation in the programs.
Prison officials had earlier defended the policy because the specialized programs do not have dentists on site.
The prison system does not track how many women requested tooth extractions to get into the program.
Last week, a state Senate committee delayed confirmation of Jeffrey Thompson as the director of correctional health care operations because of concern over the policy.
Thompson said his department is making plans to contract with dentists in locations near the programs that house the 71 participants (Garcia, San Jose Mercury News, 6/14).