On any single day, more than a million people are held in state prisons across the nation where substance abuse, mental illness, and contagious diseases are widespread. Fact: Nearly all people complete their prison sentence and return to the community.
“Drug-overdose deaths drove a decline in U.S. life expectancy in 2016 for the second year in a row…” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Dec. 21, 2017
A first-of-its-kind report requested detailed information from prison officials about their prisons’ inmates and healthcare delivery systems, such as how they fund and deliver the prisoners’ healthcare, how they make their budgets, how they compare with one another, and some reasons for differences.
Nationally, some 64,000 Americans died from overdose last year, up 86 percent from 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “Friends of Overdose Victims Become Prosecutor’s Targets” Dec. 18, 2017
The report, “Prison Health Care Costs and Quality,” by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Vera Institute of Justice sought to paint a picture for policymakers, administrators, and other stakeholders to help improve policies and programs for incarcerated people, state residents and taxpayers.
Their research found:
Departments of correction collectively spent $8.1 billion on prison healthcare services for incarcerated people in 2015—perhaps 20 percent of overall prison expenditures.
Healthcare spending per inmate varied in 2015—from $2,173 in Louisiana to $19,796 in California.
States reported wide-ranging strategies to corrections and healthcare staffing.
Treating prolonged illnesses is a growing challenge and expense in state prisons, worsened by an aging prison population. From fiscal periods 2010 to 2015, the share of older individuals in prisons rose in 44 states.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
State prison officials recognize the importance of providing consistent and stable healthcare for those returning to the community. Prison officials took a range of steps, often in partnership with other state agencies, to ease reentry from a healthcare standpoint.
According to the research, state prisons house large numbers of people with serious health issues—some have diseases that could spread inside and/or outside prison. Nearly all prisoners will return to their communities. Unhealthy citizens contribute to recidivism. Prisoners’ healthcare while incarcerated and after release is of vital public interest.