The Ruiz v. Estelle class action suit: a retrospective policy analysis of efforts to improve health care in Texas prisons
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The Ruiz v. Estelle lawsuit resulted in a federal judge declaring Texas’ prison system unconstitutional in terms of its health care and general conditions. The judge mandated various reforms, which met with considerable resistance from the Legislature and prison officials. This study is a retrospective historical analysis to identify and describe the multiple historical factors of the evolution of policy within the Texas prison system. This study aimed to increase the understanding of the particular historical patterns of the prison environment by revealing processes through the lens of retrospective historical analysis. The study is historical in that it describes a particular set of events, and it is retrospective in that an attempt is made to discover common patterns and give insight for future policy formulation. Certainly, when institutions undergo massive change they may experience massive economic dislocation, large-scale social movements, political conflict, and even revolutions. The behavior of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed this prediction. Moreover, health care was selected as the focus because the health of the inmate is a major indicator of successful reintegration back into society. Inmates should not leave the prison system in a worse condition than when they entered. In order to effectively work towards improving oppressive conditions in society, the social work profession must reassert itself back into the criminal justice system by conducting and studying research such as this and by putting pressure on legislative bodies.