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Many in U.S. Prisons Lack Good Health Care
Date:1/16/2009

Report finds high rate of chronic disease that often goes untreated

FRIDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The 2.3 million Americans currently being held in correctional facilities across the country suffer a much higher rate of serious and chronic illness than the general population does, a new report finds.

These individuals -- representing about 1 percent of the total U.S. population -- also have difficulty accessing care both inside and outside the correctional system, according to research published online Jan. 15 and set to appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

It's the first such study to look at the health of all inmates nationwide at once, the researchers said.

"We largely ignore mental health in our society, and it's exacerbated here," said Craig Blakely, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of health policy and management at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in College Station. "The findings suggest that health and mental health problems are linked to higher rates of arrest and incarceration."

"Devoting more resources to community mental health care could reduce crime rates and reduce incarceration," added study author Dr. Andrew P. Wilper, an instructor in medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Largely due to the war on drugs, the U.S. prison population has increased fourfold in the past 25 years, surpassing any other nation in the world in number of people incarcerated per capita, according to background information in the paper.

Prisoners have a constitutional right to health care via the Eighth Amendment concerning cruel and unusual punishment, yet such services are often sorely lacking, the report's authors contend.

Good data on the subject is also lacking, Wilper added. He said that he filed two federal government freedom-of-information requests -- both
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