Requesting Medical Care in a Texas Prison
This article provides information on how to request medical care, where to find I-60 request forms, and what to do if a request is not answered. This material was written by the Texas Civil Rights Project.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has a precise procedure for inmates to receive medical care. The first step is to submit a sick call form describing your symptoms and requesting treatment. Sick call forms should be available in your housing unit. Sick call requests should be answered within 48 hours.
If you have not received a response 48 hours after submitting a sick call, the next step is to submit an I-60 form. An I-60 is a request to prison officials and should be available in your housing unit. In the I-60, describe the problem you are having, state the date you submitted a sick call request, and request again to be seen by medical staff.
If you have submitted a sick call request and an I-60 request following Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) guidelines but have not received a response, you may file a Step 1 grievance. You can find grievance forms in your housing unit and in the law library. Grievances are governed by very strict rules so consult your Offender Handbook when filling one out. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- You are only allowed one issue per grievance. If you have multiple problems you need to resolve, you will need to submit a separate grievance for each issue.
- You are only allowed to submit one grievance each week. You will have to prioritize to deal with the most important issue first.
- You must file a Step 1 grievance within fifteen days of the incident giving rise to the grievance. If you cannot submit a grievance in fifteen days, you must be able to demonstrate a good reason that you were unable to do so. It’s best to submit a Step 1 grievance as soon as possible to preserve your rights.
- Never use indecent, vulgar, or threatening language in your grievance. TDCJ has the right to refuse to process your grievance if you use profanity or make threats.
- Explain what the problem is.
- Explain the steps you have taken to resolve the problem:
- Who have you spoken with about the problem?
- What forms, such as sick call requests and I-60s have you submitted?
- What response, if any, did you receive?
- State the solution you seek (such as, “I would like to see a doctor”).
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has 40 days to answer your Step 1 grievance or to notify you that they will require additional time to respond. If you have received no answer after 40 days, you may file a Step 2 grievance. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive to a Step 1 grievance, you have 15 days to submit a Step 2 grievance. A Step 2 grievance requesting medical care will be reviewed by TDCJ health services and should be responded to within 35 days of submission. If you have not received a satisfactory response by that time, then you have “exhausted administrative remedies” and may file a lawsuit or seek alternate resolutions.
You may contact TDCJ Health Services directly. Their Office of Professional Standards investigates inmate complaints about medical care.
Their mailing address is:
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Health Services Division
3009-A Hwy 30 West
Huntsville, Texas 77340-0769
If you have friends or family members in the "free world" that would like to advocate on your behalf, they may call TDCJ Health Services at (936) 437-4271. They may also contact the TDCJ Ombudsman at (936) 437-6791. In the interests of protecting your privacy, you will need to provide a medical release that authorizes TDCJ staff to discuss your health & treatment with friends and family. A medical release form can be provided by the medical department at your unit and will need to be renewed every six months to remain active. Please be sure to record all steps taken by yourself and others to receive medical care by retaining copies of all forms submitted and maintaining a written record of all requests, dates, and responses. Please be aware that contacting the above offices will not be construed as “exhausting administrative remedies.” The grievance process must still be followed to preserve your rights.
You also have the right to be seen by a "free world" doctor, provided you can find a physician willing to visit you in prison and that you pay all costs associated with the visit.
If all else fails, you may contact a lawyer or file a lawsuit yourself. It is very difficult for a prisoner to win a lawsuit, even with legal representation, so you are strongly urged to consult an attorney before filing a lawsuit. Lawyers’ addresses may be obtained from directories kept in the law library.