Released Prisoners Major Health Hazard
January 28, 2003
On Monday, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care issued a report saying that hundreds of thousands of the 11 million jail and prison inmates released each year bring AIDS, TB, hepatitis and mental disorders back to their communities. "Growing numbers of incarcerated individuals suffer disproportionately from tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, mental illness, substance addiction and many chronic diseases," NCCHC said in a statement. "Corrections departments are overwhelmed by the high cost of providing medical care and face serious challenges to providing treatment to patients. Untreated patients jeopardize the health and safety of prison and jail staff, institution visitors, prisoners and the communities to which they return."Adapted from:
The report, funded by the Justice Department, called for a congressional investigation and set forth recommendations for action ranging from setting national requirements for prison health care to funding a national vaccine program for prisoners.
Using the most recent nationwide statistics available, the report found that an estimated 98,500-145,500 HIV-positive inmates were released in 1996. An estimated 34,800-46,000 inmates had HIV in 1997, including an estimated 8,900 with AIDS. An estimated 107,000-137,000 inmates had STDs in 1997, and at least 465,000 with STDs were among the released prisoners that year. Vast numbers of prisoners with different forms of hepatitis were released. Approximately 12,000 people in correctional facilities during 1996 had active TB. In 1997, 130,000 inmates tested positive for latent TB. This extrapolated to 566,000 inmates with latent TB reentering society in 1996.
Prisons and jails become breeding grounds for disease, the study states, because many have insufficient money for care and medication, and some do not have enough space to separate sick prisoners from the general population.
NCCHC noted that correcting prison health conditions would result in huge savings in medical costs when the prisoners reenter society. The 121-page document also recommended offering prisoners instruction in safe sex, hygiene methods, and programs to help them deal with drug dependency and other health and mental problems. Prisons and jails "offer a unique opportunity for improving disease control in the community by providing comprehensive health and disease prevention programs to inmates," the report said.
United Press International
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.