Prisoners, ex-offenders, the communities they leave behind, and the communities they return to may be viewed as a distinct vulnerable population (Perez & Treadwell, 2008). The population is considered vulnerable due to physical and mental health disparities. Physical health problems often seen in prisoners are due to infectious diseases. Unusually high rates of individuals convicted of crimes will enter prison with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis (Williams, 2007). The physical health of inmates is jeopardized due to overcrowded facilities and lack of resources to adequately care for medical conditions (Williams). When an inmate arrives with physical health concerns that go untreated, there may be an impact on the health of other inmates and staff in the facility.
In addition, the lack of treatment during incarceration has the potential to affect the families and the communities to which inmates return. When individuals are released from jail, they often have limited employment opportunities and no access to health insurance. These outcomes may affect the functioning and financial status of inmate’s families and add significant stress to their lives (Williams, 2007; Kruger & Hill De Loney, 2008). Research has shown that stress levels are highest during the period right before an inmate is scheduled for release, perhaps due to the fear of returning to society lacking direction and resources (Castellano & Soderstrom, 1997).
To review current trends of health care in correctional facilities, visit the Journal of Correctional Health Care at: http://jcx.sagepub.com. This Journal is exclusively devoted to prison healthcare and includes original research, articles on ethics, information on health disparities, ideas about improving healthcare, etc. We suggest reviewing the following articles:
- Williams (2007), Prison Health and the Health of the Public: Ties that Bind discusses the social, economic, and health consequences of incarceration. The author lists causes of health disparities and provides solutions to mitigate poor prison healthcare.
- Winter (2008), Improving Quality of Health Care Delivery in a Corrections Setting suggests the steps that should be taken to alleviate poor health care for incarcerated individuals.