“Overcrowding, insufficient staff at prison hospitals and delayed diagnosis and treatment are the major barriers to inmates receiving proper health care, [an expert] said. Dr Apinun said one of the prisons he visited had only one nurse and a physician available to treat more than 1,500 prisoners.”
Healthcare remains one of the most challenging aspects of any correctional system. Unfortunately, most inmates coming off the streets have health issues that have been left untreated for a significant amount of time due to poor personal care. Many inmates have multiple issues, including mental health issues that they may self “treat” through substance abuse. Persons living in poverty – a big contributor to criminality – also have less access to quality healthcare, or less ability to pay for proper preventative care. They come into the system, sometimes in a medical crisis, and then prison medical staff are challenged with treating them. This is further complicated by the multi-layered correctional system in America, in which inmates coming off the streets go to county jails before they go to state prisons. I have heard of many stories of inmates’ medication being stopped cold turkey simply because the jail did not want to let contraband medication through the door, did not want to pay for the medication, and did not have adequate healthcare staff to be able to evaluate the inmate in a timely manner.
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