Recently a new study published in the NEJM suggested that “We feel strongly that physicians have the ability and the duty to advocate for effective and humane treatment for patients.
The correctional system has been ineffective in providing therapy, including proven approaches such as mental health services, expanded high-quality drug treatment, and support services for reentry into society after incarceration. We believe that it is time for physicians to influence the sentencing laws, policies, and procedures that directly affect the health and well-being of patients and society and to advocate for more humane and effective community-based alternatives for addressing addiction and mental illness”.
Previously another study by Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority stated after a random study over prisoner that “The actual prevalence of these health conditions is likely to be higher than what respondents stated. The research on prisoner health has shown that incarcerated persons tend to suffer from chronic, infectious, and mental illnesses at higher rates than the general population due, in part, to higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and substance use compared with the average American.
Prisoners in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) are usually in USMS custody for a short period of time (less than 1 year) during their pretrial and trial phase. Many medically appropriate, non-emergency procedures can and should be delayed until after the prisoner’s judicial status is resolved, as long as there is no significant health risk to the prisoner, Treatment of pre-existing conditions which are not life-threatening or medically necessary should be delayed until after the prisoner’s judicial status is resolved.
People with chronic illnesses can experience great difficulties in prison, but people such as drug addicts and the homeless may find their healthcare improves, according to a study in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing. The problems they uncovered included an older, incontinent prisoner who had to use a bin bag to protect his mattress and a diabetic who regularly missed breakfast because he was only offered high sugar cereals. They found that policies and standards of healthcare really varied from prison to prison.
There is a hope too. US National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) today recommended some new recommendation to improve the state’s prison health care system. Those are:
Require that requests for offsite specialty care be responded to within a week.
Stop using an electronic medical records system that was found to slow doctors down and drop their productivity.
Seriously consider consolidating all mental health services under a single entity.
Build in approval of hiring and firing decisions into the state’s new contract with a private provider.
Develop an effective system for monitoring a private health care contract with Correctional Medical Services and holding CMS accountable for meeting the terms.
Develop a simplified physical for healthy individuals.
Review the Corrections Department’s contract with the Community Health Department to ensure it reflects needs regarding mental health services.
Explore ways to expand the use of telemedicine.
Develop a clear and reliable on-call system.
For many prisoners, health care has been taken away from them because they were taken away from a productive job which gave them access to health care. It’s bad enough to jail someone for being black, or hispanic, or for smoking pot, but to take away their job and then sit back and watch them die or watch temporary disabilities become permanent? Denying health care to people we are responsible for is, as the Supreme Court has ruled, cruel and unusual.
If we don’t want to be responsible for them, we should not be putting them in prison.
“The fact that persons with mental illness have different behaviors and different ways of thinking can create social stigmas against them. They may be seen as aggressive and violent, and some might think they need protection from them. But they are still human beings. As such, they are treated equally before the law and enjoy the same constitutional freedoms as all citizens. Any restriction of these constitutes a serious violation.
The Associated Press