At the American Correctional Association's 2017 Winter Conference in San Antonio, Lannette Linthicum, M.D., director of the Health Services Division at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), became the 105th president of ACA, marking the first time in the association's history that a medical doctor has been elected president.
Linthicum was raised in the inner city of Baltimore and attended Baltimore city public schools until receiving a scholarship to attend Phillips Exeter Academy through a program known as A Better Chance. Exeter was a wonderful and challenging experience that opened many, many doors for her. One of those doors was the opportunity to participate in a school year abroad in Rennes, France, during her senior year. After graduation from Exeter, she went on to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and finally, returned home to attend medical school at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She also completed her postgraduate medical training in internal medicine in Baltimore.
After her formal education, Linthicum was sent to Texas by the U.S. Public Health Service National Health Service Corps. The federal government financed her medical education, and in turn, she agreed to serve in a health professional shortage area for each year that she received scholarship funds. Linthicum had a four-year commitment to fulfill and was matched to the state of Texas, where she was assigned to the prison system. Several other physicians were sent to the Texas prison system as a result of two major lawsuits that involved TDCJ. The first lawsuit was filed in June 1972. A Texas inmate named David Ruiz filed a handwritten petition to William Wayne Justice, district judge in the Eastern District of Texas. Ruiz claimed that conditions in the Texas prison system violated his constitutional rights. The federal court took Ruiz's complaint and eight other offender petitions and consolidated them into a class action lawsuit, Ruiz v. Estelle. After an FBI investigation, the U.S. Justice Department intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.
In November 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court took up another Texas case, Estelle v. Gamble. In the pleadings, the Supreme Court stated, "We therefore conclude that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Estelle v. Gamble was a landmark...