Medical and Dental Visits While in Prison

All TDCJ inmates have the right to at least some medical care while in a TDCJ prison. In 1993 Texas  adopted a managed health care plan to help reduce the cost of inmate medical care. strongly recommends you get a complete medical, dental, and mental health (if needed) checkup prior to sentencing and incarceration.


If you are able to visit a doctor prior to incarceration then ask the doctor to complete a prognosis letter  explaining all medical problems you have and the medications used to treat the issues. Give a copy of the report to a family member and provide one to the county jail and TDCJ.  Make sure you have a signed HIPPA release form filled out with all medical and dental providers that may have relevant medical records.  Prison officials typically do not believe what the offender says about his or her health without written verification of their claims from a physician.  Even then, the medical personnel may not accept the letter unless it comes directly to them from the doctor.  


When your doctor completes the prognosis letter make sure all of your prescriptions are listed.  The letter should include the medication name, dosage, how often administered, what it is used for, and why it is needed.  Just as important, if the doctor is willing have them list the medications which are not suitable since the prisons, and in particular the private ones, would prefer to use the cheapest possibility rather than the best medication. 

Once incarcerated the prison system is responsible for the offender's care and will determine what medications will be administered. The offender will not be allowed to take their own prescriptions into prison. The prison will take over administering all prescriptions from this point forward.  When entering prison, most medications previously prescribed will be changed by the prison medical staff but the letter mentioned in the previous paragraph should at least help if the medication chosen by the prison medical staff isn’t working correctly.  At times, the prison may choose to terminate some medications a private physician has prescribed.  The better the past medical history is documented upon arrival in prison, the more likely the chance of continuing the same treatment as in the outside world.


Ask your dentist to perform a cleaning and preventative care prior to incarceration. Dental care in prison is not fast (sometimes it is a 9 month wait or more) and the prisons are much more likely to pull a tooth as opposed to doing work to save it.  You do not want dental problems while in prison.

Medical Providers

Medical care is contracted to The University of Texas Medical School in Galveston for most of the East and South Texas area prisons.  In the Northern and Western sections of the state, care is provided by Texas Tech University Health Services Center in Lubbock.  These two institutions provide excellent care however, the quality of service provided at the the actual prison units is often inadequate and provided by a physician who is unable to work elsewhere or just doesn’t care. Some inmates are treated by a nurse or a physician’s assistant, at best, reserving a doctor only in extreme emergencies.  

Eye Care

If you wear prescription lenses you should bring a sturdy set of glasses with prescription lenses to prison with you.  Prison does not provide contacts and will not allow colored contact lenses. Inmates cannot refill their contact lenses through the prison commissary. There is an extremely long wait for eye exams and glasses through the prison system and many inmates are transferred to Galveston and then to an entirely different unit after their vision care.

Paying for Services

A law went into effect on September 28, 2011 which amended the fee charged to offenders for health care.  TDCJ is required to collect $100.00 from each offender who requests a visit to a health care provider.  Offenders will be charged a $100.00 fee for the first non-emergency health care visit.  This fee covers all health care visits for one year.  Any visit after the one year will incur another $100.00 annual fee. The fee will be deducted from the offender's trust fund account.  In the event there is no money in the trust fund account to cover the fee the law requires that fifty percent of each deposit into the offender’s trust fund account will be applied to the amount owed until the total amount is paid. Exemptions to the fee are: Mental health reviews initiated by the offender, Emergency visits, Follow-up visits, Chronic Care visits, Health screening and evaluation visits related to the diagnostic and reception process, prenatal visits, and health care services necessary to comply with State law and regulations.  By law, no offender will be denied access to health care as a result of a failure or inability to pay the fee although some inmates may believe that this doesn’t actually occur.  The fee is only assessed if an offender requests or initiates health care services.  If an offender does not initiate a visit then a fee should not be charged.

Also note that the payment of health care fees is not required as a condition for release.  Voting members of the parole board should not deny parole based on unpaid health services fees.

How Payments are Made

If the offender has less than $5.00 in their trust fund account, then nothing is taken from the balance.  However, 50% of all future deposits will be collected until the total amount is paid.  If the offender has $5.00 or more in their trust account, 50% of the balance or $100.00, whichever is less, is collected and, if necessary, 50% of all future deposits will be collected until paid in full.

Unit Care

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice provides only health services which they determined to be medically necessary.  Not all facilities offer ambulatory, medical, mental, or dental services.  
Click here to find the medical services offered at a particular TDCJ unit.  Click on the unit name and then scroll down to the Medical Capabilities section.

Parole Packet

People ask us "When is the best time to start preparing a Texas parole packet?"

Our answer is always the same.  Immediately.

We discuss the various parts of the packet in our book How To Prepare a Texas Parole Packet which is available as an automatic download or as a download and printed copy. As a bookstore, we can mail the printed copy to a prisoner at his unit or directly to you. Both the printed and digital formats include instructions, copies of the pertinent laws and examples and forms.



About the Author

Lawyer X
Lawyer X is the pen name of a former attorney who now spends all of his time writing and consulting. While in practice he was involved in both criminal and civil trials across the United States, including picking or helping to pick juries in hundreds of civil and criminal cases. In addition to his work as a trial lawyer, Lawyer X wrote articles, lectured at continuing legal education seminars, and was active in the legal community in many ways. He maintains anonymity now so that he can provide knowledge from inside and express honest opinions and viewpoints that other members of the legal community would just as soon weren't shared.