Cruel and Unusual Care and Punishment

Epistemic Injustices in Correctional Health Care
American Philosophical Association Philosophy and Medicine Newsletter 14.1
Andrea Pitts
Thursday, September 1, 2016
peer-reviewed article

Hermeneutical injustice occurs when a collective gap in knowledge unfairly deprives an individual of an ability to make sense of her/his own experiences. Cases of hermeneutical injustice often involve forms of implicit bias and meta-ignorance that support the shared gaps of a social group’s interpretive resources. To elucidate the harms caused by such forms of bias and meta-ignorance, I suggest that we turn to a concrete example, in this case, the context of correctional health care. In this paper, I argue that prisoners may face hermeneutical injustices with respect to their medical care. One of the primary reasons for this is that the current legal evidentiary requirements needed to prove civil rights violations with respect to medical care in prisons set unobtainable standards for many prisoners. The inaccessibility of those standards, I propose, is due to a series of hermeneutical gaps among the epistemic resources available to prisoners.

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