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Prison Health Care

January 5, 2007 • Volume 17, Issue 1
Are prisons dumping grounds for the mentally ill?
By Marcia Clemmitt

Introduction

Bobby Sutherland is among 300 inmates at an Alabama prison for the aged and infirm. He is serving 297 years on rape and pornography charges and expects to die behind bars . (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Bobby Sutherland is among 300 inmates at an Alabama prison for the aged and infirm. He is serving 297 years on rape and pornography charges and expects to die behind bars . (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

A high percentage of the more than 2 million inmates in U.S. jails and prisons suffer from mental illness, addiction or infectious and chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS and diabetes. About a quarter suffer from major depression and a fifth from psychosis. Many had little or no health care before being incarcerated. Providing treatment and preventive care for prisoners who eventually return to society can help stem the spread of infectious disease in communities and keep those with mental illness and addiction from landing back in jail, say public-health officials. While prisoners are, ironically, the only Americans who have a constitutionally guaranteed right to health care, most prison health systems are underfunded and understaffed, making the care they provide spotty at best. Meanwhile, strict sentencing guidelines and three-strikes-and-you're-out laws have created a burgeoning — and aging — prisoner population, which is driving skyrocketing health-care costs even higher.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Prisons
Jan. 10, 2014  Sentencing Reform
Sep. 14, 2012  Solitary Confinement
Mar. 11, 2011  Downsizing Prisons
Dec. 04, 2009  Prisoner Reentry
Apr. 06, 2007  Prison Reform
Jan. 05, 2007  Prison Health Care
Sep. 17, 1999  Prison-Building Boom
Feb. 04, 1994  Prison Overcrowding
Oct. 20, 1989  Crime and Punishment: a Tenuous Link
Aug. 04, 1989  Can Prisons Rehabilitate Criminals?
Aug. 07, 1987  Prison Crowding
Nov. 25, 1983  Prison Overcrowding
Feb. 26, 1982  Religious Groups and Prison Reform
Jun. 18, 1976  Criminal Release System
Mar. 12, 1976  Reappraisal of Prison Policy
Oct. 20, 1971  Racial Tensions in Prisons
Oct. 13, 1965  Rehabilitation of Prisoners
Oct. 09, 1957  Prisons and Parole
May 02, 1952  Penal Reform
Jan. 30, 1937  The Future of Prison Industry
May 08, 1930  Prison Conditions and Penal Reform
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Health Insurance and Managed Care
Sentencing and Corrections
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