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Ex-Inmate Could Not Afford to Buy Toothpaste, Has Lawsuit Reinstated

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By Kamika Dunlap on May 10, 2010 2:05 PM

A federal court has reinstated a lawsuit by a former Michigan inmate who claimed he could not afford to buy toothpaste while he serving time in prison.

Jerry Flanory, 58, claims he that he was denied toothpaste for nearly a year and could not afford to buy it own his own. A federal appeals court however, said that Flanory may proceed with his lawsuit alleging that his constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment were violated, the Associated Press reports.

Flanory went without toothpaste for 337 days.

The ex-inmate, who has been on parole since December after serving five years in prison for assault, is acting as his own lawyer for his lawsuit.

The lawsuit was related to a dispute involving Flanory who refused to participate in classes toward earning his GED, or general equivalent degree, because he already had one. In addition, Flanory had an associate degree from a community college.

But since Flanory refused, he was disciplined by prison officials, which resulted in him having to pay for his own toothpaste, which he could not afford.

According to a three-judge panel, citing a past decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, dental health is of great importance.

Inmates have the right to complain about prison conditions and voice their concerns about the treatment they receive. They also have a right of access to the courts to air these complaints.

In addition, inmates are entitled to medical care and attention as needed to treat both short-term conditions and long-term illnesses. The medical care provided must be "adequate."

In Flanory's case, by the time the prison had confirmed that he actually had an associate degree, it was too late. His oral health condition was poor and he had developed gum disease, A tooth on the bottom left side was later removed.

The lawsuit now returns to the same federal court in Marquette, where a judge dismissed it as frivolous in 2009.

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