Prisoners in the United States have higher rates of serious illness and worse access to health care than previously believed according to a recent study by the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School.
The study–the first to look at the health of all prison and jail inmates in the United States–found that over 800,000 (or ~40%) of the nation’s 2 million prisoners have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, or persistent heart and kidney problems. However, despite this illness rate–which is higher than the general population–few have access to necessary medical care. The study finds that over 20 percent of sick inmates in state prisons and 13.9 percent in federal prisons had not seen a doctor or nurse since their incarceration. The same was true of 68.4 percent of jail inmates with persistent medical problems.
Additionally, a quarter of inmates have a history of chronic mental illness and two-thirds were off treatment at the time of their arrest. For research Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, this suggests that they may have avoided criminality had they been receiving proper treatment.
Health Care in Michigan’s Prisons
Last year, MediaMouse.org covered the findings of an American Friends Service Committee report that explored the state of health care in Michigan’s prisons. The study concluded that Michigan is failing in its constitutional obligation to provide health care to Michigan prisoners. It cited failings that have led declining prisoner health, and in some cases, death.