This blog post will feature the work of The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights (CPHHR) in regards to prisoner health, medical care, resources, and much more. The link to this organization’s website is here: http://www.prisonerhealth.org/
A brief background on the CPHHR includes their mission, vision, and some priorities on which they are currently focused. CPHHR’s mission is to “…improve the health and human rights of criminal justice populations through education, research, and advocacy.” The vision of the CPHHR includes seeking and addressing various components of public health in regards to the criminal justice populations. The main goal is to educate policy and opinion makers, health professionals, and the general public about the complexities surrounding health in the criminal justice system. Health is such a crucial component to survival and re-entry into society and inmates should get the same access to health related resources as non-inmates would get outside of prison walls.
Some current priorities include:
- Bringing attention to the healthcare issues and challenges of prisoners and other criminal justice populations
- Improving the continuum of care for prisoners from the time of admission to the correctional facility through release
- Advancing policies and programs that promote both public health oriented approaches to mental illness, addiction, and substance use
Medical Care for Prisoners
Often inmates will not be given the proper medical care that they need and are entitled to while in prison. The CPHHR suggests taking a few steps if there is a family member in prison that is not getting his or her health needs properly met. The CPHHR also provides suggestions and advice for those that currently have a family member incarcerated but have run out of other options while trying to get that family member proper care.
The first step would be to contact your incarcerated family member’s outside doctor and ask if the doctor can communicate directly to your incarcerated family member. Another step would be contacting healthcare providers directly by bringing the medical problem to their attention. A last option would be contacting The Department of Corrections of the appropriate state and asking to speak to the medical director about the situation.
Communicable Diseases in Prison
Communicable diseases are diseases that can be passed from person to person such as the flu, mono, or HIV. The CPHHR provides some key statistics about these types of diseases in incarcerated populations, such as:
- Hepatitis C is 9-10 times more prevalent in correctional facilities than communities
- The prevalence of diagnosed HIV in correctional facilities has declined, but remains 4-5 times higher among inmates than the general population
- Over half of prisoners with HIV are estimated to also have Hepatitis C
These statistics are alarming and comparable to that of a country without proper medical infrastructures and resources. Especially with the amount of medical advances we have in the United States, these statistics must urgently be addressed. The CPHHR aims to bring awareness and promote change in order to address the gaps in health care regarding prisons and jails in the United States.
Addiction and Substance Abuse
Addiction and substance abuse pose very serious health implications, particularly for inmates that don’t have the same access to healthcare as non-incarcerated individuals. The sharing of needles and other unsterilized equipment used for drugs is an almost positive way to contract Hepatitis C. The War on Drugs has also played a large part in the number of individuals arrested, convicted, and now incarcerated for drug related crimes.
About half of prison inmates meet the criteria for substance abuse or dependence. Most people who are released from prison or jail actually relapse upon leaving. Treatment for substance abuse and addiction in prison is not widely offered. It’s estimated that only about 11% of incarcerated people that are in need of treatment actually receive it.
Some other references that may be of interest include:
–> “Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population”
–> “Return to Drug Use and Overdose after Release from Prison: A Qualitative Study of Risk and Protective Factors”
Return to Society
The inmates that are released from jail will eventually find themselves re-integrated into communities across the country. By knowing the facts about health in prison, it is imperative that the care and resources be improved for these individuals. Because once these inmates are released, they are free to mingle with society, conceivably passing along any types of diseases they may have contracted while behind bars.
The CPHHR wants to educate the general public about the health crisis that is prisoner health. This organization is perfect to integrate into my blog and also has some very important and interesting educational resources as well.
There are also videos on their website that help address some of the issues discussed throughout this blog.
They can be found at this link: http://www.prisonerhealth.org/videos-and-fact-sheets/
I hope you found this blog to be insightful, if so leave a comment!