Prisoner Health Issues
America's prison population is, like the general public, aging rapidly.
The wide net cast by the incarceration explosion of the 1980s and 1990s means that the percentage of prisoners needing increased health care has risen dramatically as well. Prisoner health is becoming another hot-button issue as public awareness builds about overcrowding, funding shortfalls, privatization and other issues affecting incarcerated Americans.
This is particularly true in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which has always had an older population than the national average, due to the profile of the offenders it prosecutes.
Here are some facts about prisoners and their health:
- Every inmate entering the Federal Bureau of Prisons is given a general health screening which includes basic blood tests and a consultation (a psychology screening and a dental exam are also provided).
- If the inmate is found to be in a generally healthy state, then further medical care is provided only upon request, with the exception of annual tuberculosis testing, which is mandatory. An inmate may randomly be called in for random HIV and other disease testing programs.
- Some inmates enter the Federal Bureau of Prisons with chronic health conditions, or develop them during their incarceration. For these inmates, they are assigned a "care level" commensurate with the care required. They will be seen regularly and monitored accordingly.
- Inmates diagnosed with high blood pressure may be given medication, and seen for monitoring every three to six months for blood tests and other testing.
- Prisoners with Type 1 Diabetes may be given insulin injections daily and seen on a more frequent basis. Other serious conditions are likewise treated.
- Inmates with less urgent but chronic needs, such as those suffering from skin conditions or back pain, may be seen only twice a year.
- The Federal Bureau of Prisons utilizes a ‘managed care’ model of treatment that sees most inmates visiting a Mid-Level Practitioner (MLP) for basic diagnostic care, provision of common treatments and referrals for more specialized care
- A prisoner may be referred to a Medical Doctor (MD) for further services. Very often, though, even chronic care inmates rarely see an MD, and communications with such a provider go through the MLP.
- Inmates who are injured, ill, or otherwise need medical attention can access health care via filling out a sick call/triage form (in the case of a true medical emergency, inmates can ask any staff member to contact medical staff for immediate assistance).