For the past five years, Dr. John Cranshaw has administered his experience and knowledge treating prisoners inside San Quentin.
In 1990, the federal court became involved with California’s prison overcrowding issue when Coleman v. Brown, was filed. Coleman claimed the state inadequately treats mental illnesses. Plata v. Brown later followed the Coleman case in 2001, claiming sub par medical care. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the combined cases in Coleman/Plata v. Brown and determined because of overcrowding, California prisons’ health care delivery system violated the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Constitution, and to correct the deficiencies, the inmate prison population had to be reduced to 137.5 percent of designed capacity.
Dr. Cranshaw came into the prison system in light of Court’s order to bring the prison system’s medical care delivery system to constitutional levels.
Well liked and respected by his patients, Dr. Cranshaw, has been into medicine for more than 20 years. He is leaving San Quentin to work at the Long Term Acute Rehabilitation Hospital in Kentfield, designed for people who have just gotten out of the Intensive Care Unit and or Surgery.
“The biggest downside I see about the [medical] setup now is access”
In a medical examination room, sated with a backbone replica, charts, diagrams, and other informative medical bits and pieces of information, Dr. Cranshaw sat at a neatly arranged workstation, going over one of the 13 to 14 medical files he will review and evaluate this workday.
Cranshaw said the new position in Kentfield would allow him to spend more time with his family. “It’s been awhile since I’ve had a lot of time to spend with my family. My new job will give me more day-time off, something we need.”
“When I started working at San Quentin, I worked in the modular trailers on the side of North Block,” said Cranshaw. “I preferred the trailers because it was an easier and faster way to see patients.”
When asked if there were any disadvantages working in the new facility as opposed to the modular trailer set up, Cranshaw said, “The biggest downside I see about the [medical] setup now is access. A patient here has to fill out a sick-call slip, call out ‘man down,’ etc. before they are in a position to receive treatment. The delay can sometimes be a problem.”
Seeing a doctor outside of prison is easier said Cranshaw. “A patient can go to a clinic, see any doctor they choose. If they aren’t satisfied there, they can always go to another hospital or clinic.”
Paul L. said, “Dr. Cranshaw is one of the most thorough, caring doctors I’ve met since my incarceration. Every time I sat with Cranshaw, it was no different from any doctor I’ve dealt with out in the free world. He heard me out and dealt with the problem.”
According to Cranshaw, about 40 percent of the prison population is infected with Hep-C. He stressed that prevention is important and everyone should be careful. “The medical problems I see here at San Quentin are about the same as those patients I see on the outside. The patients here, for the most part all want help for their ailments or medical conditions, etc.” Cranshaw said for the most part, prisoner patients want what people on the outside want, treatment for their medical issues.
Terminal cancer patient Bill Lambie said, “Dr. Cranshaw, Chief Medical Officer Dr. [E.] Tootell, and San Quentin’s medical staff has been more than gracious to me. I am dying of cancer, and they have done everything in their power to help me with my situation. My family and I are grateful.”
Lambie was granted a compassionate release by California State Parole Commissioners in July, but a San Bernardino judge refused to sign the release papers. (See Lambie’s story on page 1).
Raphael Calix said, “Dr. Cranshaw represented hope. His style of treating the ailment was to listen and to show me how much he cared. I felt really comfortable around him.”
Working at San Quentin was Cranshaw’s first time in a prison. He said his experience here has been educational. Cranshaw said the medical staff, his colleagues at San Quentin, are a great bunch of people. He enjoyed working with them and will miss them and his patients.
San Quentin’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. E. Tootell said, “We will miss Dr. Cranshaw and his contributions during his service here.”
Cranshaw also spent many Saturdays on his own time, volunteering as a sponsor for “No More Tears,” a non-violence group held in San Quentin’s Interfaith Chapel.
According to JulianGlenn “Luke” Padgett, one of Cranshaws’s previous patients here at San Quentin, “When I saw Dr. Cranshaw during an examination, I was impressed by how thorough he was, and the attention he gave me during my visits to the clinic. I only wish I could have seen him for all my appointments. He will be missed for sure.”