Mental and physical health problems are more prominent in prison populations in comparison to the general public. On average, inmates have significantly higher rates of chronic diseases and illnesses such as hypertension, asthma, arthritis, cervical cancer, and hepatitis (Binswanger, Krueger, & Steiner, 2009). Furthermore, mental healthcare problems are consistently more prevalent in prison populations. The strict prison subculture is exceptionally detrimental to individuals suffering from these diseases (Birmingham, 2003). Overall, prisoners receive a lower quality of mental healthcare even though the court mandates equality.
Lack of Medications
In prison environments, adequate healthcare is usually only reserved for those who have severe mental or physical illnesses and injuries. Furthermore, treatment is dependent on resource availability and demand. Over 50% of the prisoners who underwent pharmacotherapy for mental diseases before being incarcerated did not receive medication in prison. The lack of treatment can have severe consequences such as rehabilitation failure, recidivism, or even death (Reingle Gonzalez & Connell, 2014).
Quality of Care
In addition, studies show that prisoners generally receive a lower quality of care because they are not considered paying customers. This status provides little incentive for prison healthcare providers to offer a high quality of care. Furthermore, approval to perform necessary tests and surgical procedures is a lengthy process that often is received after the prisoner has been transferred or released. Additionally, many prisoners have accused practitioners and nurses operating in prisons of avoiding crucial procedures and surgeries that have a high cost to the public (Awofeso, 2005). These decisions are often based on political views in regards to prisoners as well as a means of budgeting their expenses (Asch, et al., 2006).
Furthermore, many prisoners claim that the prison system hinders their ability to voice their health concerns. National health surveys often ignore inmates, so the public is vastly unaware about the prison population’s overall health. This exclusion also creates a skewed perception of disease and illness precedence in prisons (Awofeso, 2005).
State Prison Expenditures
The main focus on the prison system is to provide a reformative environment for the inmate so they can learn from their past and become a thriving citizen upon release. Prisons provide a location where these people can learn and grow while maintaining the safety of the general public. However, upholding the same level of security and care within prison facilities is essential to the reform process. Overall, the average amount of money that each state spends each year per prisoner is $33,274. Furthermore, approximately 11% of the total money spent goes towards healthcare needs. To serve as a point of comparison, 68% of prison expenditures provide for personnel salaries (Vera Institute of Justice, 2015). With the low amount of funding, healthcare has little effect on the overall prison operations.
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Asch, S. M., Kerr, E. A., Keesey, J., Adams, J. L., Setodji, C. M., Malik, S., & McGlynn, E. A. (2006, March 16). Who Is at Greatest Risk for Receiving Poor-Quality Health Care? New England Journal of Medicine, 354, 1147-1156.
Awofeso, N. ( 2005, July 30). Making Prison Health Care More Efficient: Inmates Need More Organised and More Preventive Health Care in Emptier Prisons. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 331(7511), 248–249.
Binswanger, I. A., Krueger, P. M., & Steiner, J. F. (2009, July 30). Prevalence of Chronic Medical Conditions among Jail and Prison Inmates in the United States Compared with the General Population. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Birmingham, L. (2003, May 9). The Mental Health of Prisoners. BJPsych Advances, 3, 191-199.
Ginn, S. (2012, September 17). Prison Environment and Health. British Medical Journal, 345.
Reingle Gonzalez, J. M., & Connell, N. M. (2014, December). Mental Health of Prisoners: Identifying Barriers to Mental Health Treatment and Medication Continuity. Am J Public Health, 104(12), 2328–2333.
Vera Institute of Justice. (2015). Prison Spending in 2015. Retrieved from Vera Institute of Justice: https://www.vera.org
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