Contemporary Issues-Infectious Diseases among Inmate Populations DeAnna Huey University of Phoenix Contemporary Issues-Infectious Diseases among Inmate Populations Infectious disease is any disease that is able to spread among our public and contained population, thus being called infectious. An infectious disease travels through the environment, as it passes from one person to another through means of airborne, droplets, contaminated water, clothes, bedding, utensils or anything that has come in contact with an infected person.
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Diseases spread as the result of direct personal contact with bacteria. The most pressing issue that our prisons face when dealing with communicable disease is population density. Inmates are living most of their days in eight by eight cells that would normally accommodate one person, and are sharing it with two or more additional inmates. This creates an environment where a disease can easily be transmitted from one person to another in a short period of time. With the prison systems revolving door of inmates every year, it is not easy to provide a detailed medical screen for every intake.
The amount of inmates coming in and their lack of screening together creates an enviroment hrough which disease can be introduced into the population. Many inmates didn’t have or could not afford health insurance, and were unaware they had a disease, or were unable to afford treatment. So many inmates come through intake, and are unaware that they carry HIV, Hepatitis C, and other diseases, and are under the assumption that their initial health screen will detect the disease.
This is simply a lack of knowledge, and lack of personal care before becoming incarcerated. Inmates think that they are in a disease screened environment, and still other will unknowingly carry the disease and possibly spread it because they are unaware they ad it. Initial screenings may only test for diseases such as hepatitis C, and only certain diseases such as HIV will require a follow up visit, others Just assume no news is good news and think everything came out fine.
Prisons and houses of incarceration were developed and then combined in the 18th century in England
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and France. The penitentiary system was then developed in the 19th century in America. Prisons became a breeding ground for epidemical diseases that decimated the inmates. Because people were uneducated about communicable diseases and the make-up of microbial etiologies of transmissible diseases, the epidemic of these iseases served to reinforce the idea that the ill-health of prison inmates was somehow self-inflicted or divinely inspired. From the 18th century on into the 20th century, few observers identified the degree to which deaths and disease among inmates were determined by the physical design, population density, administration, and the conditions of the prisons” (Greiflnger, 2007). The history of disease in prison systems was affected by several issues; overcrowding, already infected violence, abuse, and many other contributing factors, thus plaguing the prison systems without having any protocols in place to reduce the spread of infectious iseases. As of December 31, 2007, of the 2,319,258 incarcerated Americans, 31 percent (723,131) were locked up in Jails. While fgures vary widely by state, the operating costs per inmate averaged almost $ 24,000, and capital expenses per bed averaged $ 65,000 in 2006. Healthcare costs are the fastest growing category of prison operations, currently accounting for 8 to 12 percent of total prison budgets” (Awofeso, 2008. ) The present circumstances surrounding the spread of infectious diseases among inmate populations continues to grow at a rapid rate due to the lack of financial funds available to the prisons.
Provision of good quality healthcare is necessary to facilitating physical rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals. Due to the increases of prison population this has become nearly impossible to achieve. Improving the quality of care, monitoring of diseases, and evaluating healthcare must remain on the same priority levels as security and emergency situations within the prison itself. In the prison facilities today infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases are much higher than in the general community.
Inmates who engage in sexual and drug elated behaviors are at a higher risk level in contracting these infectious diseases. “A study released last year by the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented 88 men who became infected after entering Georgia state prisons, most of them through consensual sex. Because prisons only rarely test for HIV, infected ex- cons frequently go on to have unprotected sex and spread the disease to their unknowing wives or girlfriends.
The resulting damage has been most devastating to minority communities. Because two-thirds of prisoners are black or Latino men, and ne out of three black men will serve time behind bars in their lifetime, minority HIV rates have skyrocketed, especially among female partners of ex-cons. In 2003, African Americans and Latinas accounted for 83% of all new AIDS cases among women in the United States according to federal statistics” (Los Angeles Times, 2005). The Future of prison health care lies in the hands of our lawmakers.
With the recent passing of Government run healthcare system, prison systems may suffer the financial burden in providing quality healthcare and service to inmates. Inmates need to be seen as patients and not only inmates. Inmates require the same healthcare services that the general population requires to improve healthy living. Furthermore, the elderly populations in prisons are becoming the fastest growing sector. “The continuing boom of prison populations, the rising number of inmates is living longer” (Keith, 2001, pl).
The body of an inmate will age much faster than the body of someone who is not in prison. The inmates, who committed crimes during their golden years, are now at ages that are in failing health, which requires more complicated medical care. Prisons are becoming more of a hospice care facility than a prison. Some states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania have built geriatric prison facilities that resemble mini- hospitals, equipped with medical devices and oxygen tanks.
Prisons are being licensed as acute-care settings with a crew of Registered nurses, correctional health experts say’ (Chen, 2009). Issues surrounding how healthcare services can help reduce the spread of infectious diseases relies on the Correctional Officers Health Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide guidelines for the prevention of infectious diseases, detection, and treatment of inmates and correctional employees ho face exposure to infectious diseases in correctional facilities” ( (Health, 2005). “Estimating that 1 1. million Americans cycle in and out of Jail or prison each year (the great majority of them short term Jail inmates), The Health Status of Soon-to-be Released Inmates report suggests that more than 18 percent of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) carriers in the country pass through the Jail or prison system annually, as do 8 percent of those with HIV and one third of those with active Tuberculosis (TB). Six percent of incoming inmates, according to the report, show evidence of recent yphilis infection, 6 percent have Chlamydia, an up to 4 percent have gonorrhea.
Experts believe that for these diseases, the infection rates (the number of cases per 100,000) among prisoners are upward of ten times those found in the general population” (Health, 2005). The challenge of providing healthcare service within the correctional setting requires special skill combining the task of providing quality medical care within the environmental constraints of the prison systems. Therefore it is necessary to implement plans of prevention, policy and procedures so inmates eceive quality healthcare and follow-up care when they are discharged from the prison system.