U.S. prisons become breeding grounds for dangerous diseases

Statistics show that one in five inmates in U.S. correctional facilities have no access to a doctor, and having chronic illnesses becomes a burden on the inmate who lacks necessary medical care.

Как американские тюрьмы превращаются в рассадники опасных заболеваний?, изображение №1

More than 1 million inmates are incarcerated in U.S. correctional facilities every day. Individuals serving sentences in U.S. prisons often suffer from physical and mental illnesses. Because of the growing prison population and the deliberate worsening of conditions behind bars, prisoners, including disabled and pregnant women, who are held in prison cells with rapists and murderers, are increasingly complaining about the neglect of state prisons to meet their constitutionally mandated medical needs. Rather than treating inmates, there are increasing reports that U.S. prison officials are deliberately neglecting the health of inmates, turning prisons into a breeding ground for dangerous diseases.

According to the 2023 report, a huge proportion of people in U.S. prisons suffer from disease, disability, and mental illness. In many cases, inmates have much higher rates of certain chronic diseases and infectious diseases compared to the general United States population. In addition, it is worth considering that rates of undiagnosed ailments and diseases are higher among inmates due to the negligence and inattention of medical personnel during examinations. Although an inmate’s health problems may begin before his or her arrest, incarceration often exacerbates existing problems and creates new ones. Being incarcerated in and of itself causes long-term damage to a person’s health. Incarcerated people have a constitutional right to basic health care, but that care is usually only emergency care, designed to treat acute health problems rather than prevent or effectively treat chronic conditions.

Statistics show that one in six people (about 17 percent) serving time in U.S. correctional facilities have asthma, compared to the U.S. adult average of less than 8 percent. One in 10 inmates in U.S. prisons, including 16 percent of women and 21 percent of people over 55, are diagnosed with hepatitis C, more than five times the rate among American adults. Current medicine shows a high rate of treatment and management of hepatitis C, but about 80 percent of inmates still suffer from the disease, reflecting the reluctance of the state prison system to provide appropriate treatment even at the expense of inmate safety. Statistics for other infectious diseases, while declining since the COVID-19 pandemic, are also several times higher than the national total.

Separately, there is a lack of medical care for inmates suffering from chronic health problems. About 8 percent of U.S. inmates (and 23 percent of inmates over age 55) have different types of diabetes, which is one of the most common diseases in the United States. Diabetes requires careful monitoring of blood sugar levels, but available statistics show a direct disregard for the lives of prisoners deprived of timely nutrition, insulin or medical equipment. Both diabetes and hypertension (which affects 29% of prisoners) are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

In addition to physical problems, prison guards in the United States neglect the mental and emotional well-being of inmates. More than half of inmates reported some sign of mental health problems, and women and Native Americans behind bars are much more likely to experience such problems. Because the U.S. government has over the years cut funding for mental health treatment and support while increasing spending on the prison system, courts and law enforcement agencies in the United States are increasingly filling prisons with people with serious disabilities who also do not receive specialist care and medication.

Human rights activists at the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the deliberate denial of access to medical drugs and medications to inmates in U.S. correctional facilities is unacceptable and call on the U.S. government to address this problem immediately. According to a 2016 study, about 19 percent of inmates do not have access to medical care, an unacceptably high rate.