No county jail in the USA is allowed to refuse you medical attention if you have a serious or potentially serious medical issue. A few county jails have up-to-date kiosks in each POD that allow inmates to schedule their own medical checkups. Most county jails still require inmates to go through jailers (guards) before they are able to talk to a nurse or a doctor. This can be problematic because jailers are not medically trained to evaluate medical complaints. If you need to see a nurse or a doctor there are several methods for getting that done.
Start at the beginning: When you are booked you should receive a list or booklet of rules, with things you need to know. If information about medical attention is not listed, ask the nurse who does your initial medical intake. Find out the procedures before you need them.
Asks the jailer: Ask for a medical request form. Fill it out completely, and if there is not a spot to list the time and date of your request, find somewhere to write it in so there is a record of when your request was made. Turn the form over to the guard and ask that he or she get it to medical personnel as soon as possible. If there is no specific form, write a request on a plain piece of paper, date and sign it, and ask the jailer to deliver it to the medical staff. Keep a record of the date, time and the jailer’s name you gave it to.
Ask for a superior: While this may not sit well with the jailer who failed to handle your medical request, if you have a serious issue or are in significant pain, you need to be taken care of. Request to speak with a higher-ranking officer and explain to him or her that your medical form may have gotten lost, and ask what the next step is for getting seen.
Get outside help: If your requests are being ignored, enlist the help of an outside family member. When you make the call home, explain that you need to see a nurse or doctor and ask them to call into the county jail’s medical desk to speak with the nurse on duty. While you typically cannot pick up the phone from inside a POD and call the nurse, those on the outside have much easier access. Ask the person to give a short explanation of what issue you have and ask them to convey that you have been trying to get seen to no avail. Ask what the procedure is to finally get it done. This usually results in your seeing the nurse very quickly.
A word of caution: One of the reasons inmates with legitimate medical issues have a hard time being seen is because of other inmates who pretend to be sick just to get out of the POD for a while. Only request medical care when you have a legitimate concern. Don’t become known as the inmate who cries wolf. You will only be ignored.