Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Released prisoners are more likely to suffer early death

From the 13 May press release at Georgia State News

Men who have been incarcerated and released are more than twice as likely to die prematurely as those who have not been imprisoned, according to a new study published by Georgia State University criminologist William Alex Pridemore.

Portrait of William Alex Pridemore

Former prisoners are more likely to die early from infectious and respiratory diseases, drug overdoses and homicides. Causes of this “mortality penalty” include increased exposure to diseases like TB and HIV, the prolonged stress of the prison environment, the disruption of important social bonds and, upon release, the struggle to reintegrate into society and employment.

“We know that stress can weaken immune systems,” Pridemore said. “And in a very unpleasant twist of events, at the precise moment when these men are most vulnerable to a compromised immune system due to stress – that is, when they are incarcerated – they are most exposed to a host of communicable diseases whose rates are much higher in the prison population.”

Pridemore’s empirical analysis of the Izhevsk (Russia) Family Study, was published online this month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Titled “The Mortality Penalty of Incarceration: Evidence from a Population-based Case-control Study of Working Age Males,” it is among the first sociological studies to look at the short- and long-term impacts of incarceration on the mortality of prisoners after their release.

More than 2.5 million people are incarcerated in the United States – 95 percent of whom will eventually be released. Incarceration rates in the United States and Russia, at 730 and 519 per 100,000 residents, are among the highest in the world.

MEDIA CONTACT

Jennifer French Giarratano
404-413-0028
jgiarratano@gsu.edu

“Earlier research looked at the collateral consequences of mass imprisonment that started in the 1970s, when the U.S. went on an incarceration binge. Most focused on incarceration’s limits on job prospects and earnings, marriages and its impact on communities,” he said. “Now research is turning to its impact on health.

“Ironically, prisons provide an opportunity to screen and treat a population that may be unlikely or unable to take advantage of community-based health care,” he continued. “Prisons should work with inmates, prior to their release, and provide health screenings and treatment and help them plan for their short-term and long-term health care needs. This investment will benefit not only the individual health of current and former prisoners, but also taxpayers and the broader community by way of improved population health.

Pridemore’s findings are timely given the recent release of the National Research Council’s report, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, which has politicians and the public reconsidering mass incarceration.

“Careful research shows that many of the consequences of contact with the penal system – especially the mortality penalty of incarceration – go well beyond what we consider just punishment,” he said.
###

William Alex Pridemore is a Distinguished University Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. His research focuses on the social structure and violence and the sociology of health.

Enhanced by Zemanta

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Handbook on strategies to reduce overcrowding in prisons

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 6.51.04 AM

Here in Toledo, Ohio my (Catholic) parish boundary includes a nearby state prison.
The bishop’s office redrew parish boundaries a few years back and decided our parish, three miles from the prison, includes the Catholics at Toledo Correctional Institution. Quite a challenge for us, we have about 100 “churchgoers” on the average Sunday, about 2/3 are over age 60. About 20 baptized Catholics (of an inmate population of 1,220)  are registered within our parish.

We were encouraged to write the inmates. So I did. After about 3 letter exchanges, one asked me to visit him. So, after 3 weeks of pondering, I did.  It really isn’t any big deal.  Robb is very articulate and we do have some lively discussions in areas of politics, Catholic Church “hot topics”, and philosophy.

In the past year, four inmates have been murdered. at Toledo Correctional.  Allegedly by other inmates.  In Michigan, only one inmate was murdered in the whole state in the last year.  The rise in violence is in tandem with increasing overcrowding, especially double bunking in cells designed for single occupancy.

I am including this item because overcrowding is a safety and (mental) health issue.  The murders here at Toledo Correctional were in the higher security levels, Robb is in the lowest security level. Still, I cannot imagine how this is impacting Robb’s mental health.

Excerpts from the handbook
(I realize American prisons are probably better than the worst of the worst internationally, still, there is room for improvement)

In very diverse environments and over many years, the ICRC has witnessed first- hand the consequences of overcrowding on detainees and on the authorities. Indeed, overcrowding is an increasingly widespread problem in a number of countries and places of detention. In itself, it is a very serious humanitarian concern, as it auto- matically generates substandard and often inhumane conditions of detention. Tens of thousands of people are forced to live for extended periods in congested accom- modation, with insufficient space to move, sit or sleep. This seriously compromises the ability of the administration to fulfil detainees’ basic needs in terms of living conditions, medical care, legal aid and family visits. Being squeezed into cramped living quarters, often in appalling hygiene conditions and with no privacy, makes the experience of being deprived of freedom—already stressful in normal circumstances— exponentially worse. It erodes human dignity and undermines detainees’ physical and mental health, as well as their reintegration prospects. In addition to putting excessive strain on infrastructures, it heightens the potential for tensions and conflicts among detainees and with staff. It quickly leads to difficulties in maintaining good order within the prison, resulting in potentially severe consequences in terms of safety for the detainees, as well as in terms of supervision and security.

While the consequences are particularly grave for the men, women and children deprived of their liberty, they also affect the frontline staff whose job it is to protect and meet the needs of the detainees. Overwhelmed by excessive numbers and directly exposed to the frustration of the detainees without the resources needed to guarantee security or access to the most basic services, detention staff work in difficult condi- tions and are exposed to constant pressure and risk.

ICRC knows from experience that situations of overcrowding, once established, trig- ger a downward spiral which has a negative impact on the entire criminal justice system as a result of increasing congestion, staff demotivation and the development of parallel coping mechanisms or corruption.

3. Broader consequences of excessive imprisonment

The impact of overcrowding does not remain within the prison walls. It can have a detrimental impact on public health. The cost of the excessive use of imprisonment, which is a fundamental reason for prison overcrowding in countries worldwide (see chapter B), can be significant, increasing the poverty levels and socio-economic mar- ginalization of certain groups of people and reducing funds available for other spheres of government expenditure.

….

3.1 The cost of imprisonment

Numerous studies have shown that imprisonment disproportionately affects people living in poverty. When an income generating member of the family is imprisoned, the sudden loss of income can have a severe impact on the economic status of the rest of the family—especially so in low resource countries where the state does not usually provide financial assistance to the poor and where it is not unusual for one person to financially support an extended family network. When released, often with no prospects for employment due to their criminal record, former prisoners are generally subjected to socio-economic exclusion and are vulnerable to an endless cycle of poverty, marginalization, criminality and imprisonment. Thus, imprisonment contributes directly to the impoverishment of the prisoner and his or her family. Studies have also shown that children of parents who have been imprisoned are more likely to come into conflict with the law and that once detained, they are likely to be further criminalized. Thus the cycle is expanded, creating future victims and reducing future potential economic performance

…….

  • State report rips Toledo prison (toledoblade.com, 09/13/2013)
    “A state committee on Thursday issued a harsh, lengthy inspection report of the Toledo Correctional Institution, citing significant increases in assaults, high employee-turnover rates, rampant drug trading, and three homicides reported there in the past year.The 164-page report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee shows that inmate-on-inmate assaults increased by nearly 113 percent and inmate-on-staff assaults increased nearly 74 percent from 2010 to 2012. The legislatively established committee monitors prison facilities, conducts unannounced inspections of prisons, and writes reports of their activities.”
    “The prison has the highest staff turnover rate — 16.5 percent — of all prisons in the state, according to the report. Most staff resignations come while employees are being investigated, according to the report.

    Toledo Correctional “has historically had challenges recruiting quality staff, particularly in health care,” the report states.
    Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/State/2013/09/13/State-report-rips-Toledo-prison.html#RzJGpLqojeJcCKFA.99

  • Prison’s acts failed to halt homicides (toledoblade.com)

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Workplace Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

California to start regaining control of prison healthcare

Prison health care does seem to be improving in California.
Why I am I reporting this? Because health care (and I’m not talking non-elective procedures here) is a right. A right that does not depend on one’s socioeconomic status. I believe that because prisoners are human beings, it is our collective responsibility to make sure they do get needed health care.  Just as it is our collective responsibility for all.Being found guilty of crimes and committing crimes does not take away their humanity. It may be hard to have compassion for those who showed no compassion at some point in our lives. But as human beings, I believe we are truly capable of seeing good in all.

There are a number of factors here (see related articles). Excessive salaries for some prison health care workers. And prison overcrowding (at least partially attributable to the three strike law). So I think not only prison reform is in order, but who we criminalize and why needs to be rationally addressed.

Prison doors

Prison doors (Photo credit: rytc)

 

From the 25 October 2012 article at the Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO — Seven years after federal courts took control of California’s prison healthcare system, citing care so poor that inmates were dying needlessly, they will start the long process Friday of turning operations back over to the state.

J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed overseer, said he could foresee a full resumption of state control in about two years. He will begin Friday with a test: handing over authority to staff and equip new care facilities, including a $1-billion project in Stockton, and the sensitive job of making sure inmates get to doctors, clinics and hospitals…

California lost its authority after U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson declared in June 2005 that “extreme measures” were needed to fix a care network that killed one inmate each week through incompetence or neglect. Henderson said that despite repeated warnings from his court, sick prisoners continued to die “for no acceptable reason.”

The state had two such deaths last year, a level Kelso said is within reason: “There are limits to how perfect medicine can be.”..

 

 

October 26, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: