“Doc, they’re not giving me my Benadryl.” The patient scraped his long fingernails along his neck to emphasize the point, his skin falling in tiny flakes onto his dark green uniform. The space where he used to have eyebrows lifted quizzically, awaiting my response.
I took a deep breath. I was still not used to working in the prison clinic, or in a prison at all. The clinic was in a cramped, ancient section of a maximum security facility that dated back to the turn of the century before last. It was a good ten-minute walk from the prison entrance to get there, mostly through tunnels crowded with inmates lined up for food, work, or head count. Along the way were the echoing noises of the place, the staring officers, the smells of constantly applied fresh paint and ammonia, and the shuffling lines of inmates in their color-coded uniforms: white for those in work programs, green for those with few infractions, gray-brown for most everyone else. And, on occasion, the bright crimson of death row.