Health Care in Prisons and Jails Impacts Community Health

August 9, 2022 - Reading time: 5 minutes
Health Care in Prisons and Jails Impacts Community Health

Half the world’s population lacks essential health services, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Individuals without health care may include inmates in various prisons and jails. The effects of health care quality in correctional facilities impact not only the inmates themselves, but prison health care can also affect community health. Prisoners often have higher rates of severe illnesses like asthma. Upon their release, the individuals’ health issues and needs may follow them.

This site can help locate inmates in federal and state prisons and local jails. By using the website, you can get updated information regarding a detained loved one’s current health status and other matters, such as criminal investigations, solicitations, disclaimers, and press releases. Read on to learn more about how inmate health care affects community health.

Overview of Prison Health Care

The amount of health care services in jails and prisons can differ.

In recent years, prisons and jails have been the core of COVID-19 outbreaks. Potential issues include the lack of protective equipment and effective testing.

Such issues highlighted the general quality of health care services that correctional facilities provide in jails and prisons. Some advocates argue that the quality of prison health care has been a long-term problem.

For example, inmates may not receive the medical care they need for various reasons. Such factors include the prisoner not requesting such assistance. In some situations, prisons offer anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil for various health conditions. Still, such medications may not effectively address the symptoms of various illnesses. In addition, inmates may not receive immediate care for their health conditions. This situation can become problematic if the individual has an undiagnosed severe condition. In other situations, prisons may provide a diagnosis but no medication to reduce or relieve symptoms. Various factors can cause particular circumstances. They include an undiagnosed condition that worsens due to stress.

Prisoner Health Conditions

Statistics show that certain health conditions are significantly more prevalent
among inmates than in the general population. Examples include:

● Hypertension
● Asthma
● Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
● Mental health disorders

For example, individuals may develop asthma at any age. Factors such as family history can impact the potential of people to develop the condition. Environmental factors, such as a prison’s air quality, can trigger asthma.

Inmates with particular health conditions often require medications to help relieve or reduce the symptoms of various health conditions. As of July 2022, the average price of asthma inhalers is $74.32. Meanwhile, the average cost of 30 tablets of blood pressure medicine maybe $330, or $11 per tablet. The public often considers the effects on inmates’ health care and health conditions only involve jails and prisons.

Prison Health Care’s Effects on Community Health

Consider that an estimated 95% of incarcerated inmates in the United States eventually return to the community. Afterward, they need continued medical care for physical or mental health conditions.

Suppose the judicial system releases a prisoner with HCV after their sentence. The individual’s disease can affect community health. While transmission of “hep C” is rare, it may still occur. Besides Hepatitis C, ex-convicts may also have other infectious diseases that can affect a city’s or town’s public health. Examples include transmittable diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The local or national health care systems are involved in managing or treating the individual’s health conditions. Consider the average cost of blood pressure medicine mentioned above. The yearly cost of medicine may be over $4,000 per year based on these calculations:

$11 tablet x 365 days = $4,015/year

Besides medications, an individual may also require treatments or surgery for their health condition. Another challenge of correctional health care is that an ex-inmate may have been unable to receive treatment for infectious diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Untreated diseases can cause health care challenges after an inmate returns to society.

Mental Health Care for Ex-convicts

Besides physical conditions, some former prisoners require treatment and therapy for mental health issues. The range and severity of mental health conditions vary based on various factors. For example, experts estimate at least 50% of inmates in the United States have mental health concerns. In comparison, up to 35% may have severe mental health conditions. In some situations, communities have inadequate mental health services to help individuals with psychological disorders. Statistics show that about 40% of those individuals incarcerated in the U.S. have a history of mental illness. The rate of mental health illnesses is about twice as high as the general population.

While a few jails and prisons provide mental health care, such care is often inadequate to meet the individual’s needs. In addition, approximately two-thirds of inmates in the U.S. with mental illness receive no mental health treatment. Untreated mental conditions can worsen, significantly affecting the individual and society.

Examples include:

● Disability
● Substance abuse
● Unemployment
● Homelessness
● Incarceration
● Poor quality of life

Some advocates argue that the justice system should collaborate with community-based mental health systems. This step ensures that incarcerated individuals receive quality and timely mental health care.

Substance Abuse Disorder Among Ex-convicts

Experts project that two-thirds of the U.S. prison population has a substance abuse disorder (SUD). Drugs or alcohol influenced another 20% of inmates when they committed their crimes.

Some experts argue that treatment for SUD should begin during an individual’s incarceration. This process can help individuals learn skills such as how to avoid relapse. However, some individuals with SUD receive treatment while “behind bars.” The effects of inmates not receiving treatment for SUD include long-term physical damage and worsening disease.


  1. Hepatitis C questions and answers for the public
  2. Communicable diseases
  3. Incarceration nation
  4. About mental illness
  5. Mental Health Treatment While Incarcerated
  6. Criminal Justice DrugFacts
  7. World Bank and WHO: Half the world lacks access to essential health services, 100 million still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses

by Fay Smith