The Health and Health Care of US Prisoners: A Nation wide Survey, from the American Journal of Public Health, is the first study of prison and jail inmates health across the country. Not surprisingly, it shows high levels of serious illness and little available health care. The data were analyzed by researchers from Cambridge and Harvard for 2002 and 2004. Of the two million inmates, around forty percent (40%) report a chronic medical problem like asthma, diabetes, or ongoing heart or kidney problems. Their illness rate is thus much higher than free citizens of a similar age. A fifth of state prison inmates had not seen a doctor or nurse since being locked up; fully sixty-eight percent (68%) of sick jail inmates had not gotten nurse or doctor attention.
The problems of mentally ill offenders are equally sad, but incarceration appears to coincide with the pattern of existing mentally ill persons not receiving care to get something after incarceration. See the more recent post, "Mental Illness: What Hath Been Wrought."
These findings are disturbing but not surprising and serve as baseline information for development of public policy to address these issues.