Hi all! This is research essay for my ENG102 class. We were allowed to select a topic of our choosing with the requirement that it be reviewed on this site and that I state what I consider to be my 3 weaknesses, which are as follows:
-I am concerned that my voice isn't the strongest.
-I might be using too many quotes.
-I am concerned about the organization of my paper.
Thank you in advance!
The Link Between Correctional Healthcare and Public Health
The United States utilizes a great deal of resources in an effort to promote and improve overall public health. For example, there are various health agencies that use and allocate their resources at a federal, state, and local level (Future of Public Health, paragraph 1). This being said, one major component of public health that is often overseen is correctional healthcare. The following information delineates three elements that exemplify the direct link between correctional healthcare reform and the improvement of public health. Specifically, this paper reviews how correctional healthcare reform can lead to an improvement in health to the millions of non-incarcerated individuals who are affected directly an indirectly by the correctional system. Furthermore this paper reviews how reform could also help curtail the spread of communicable diseases among the public, and even help mitigate some of the health related causes that tend to lead to recidivism.
The United States is currently experiencing an epidemic of mass incarceration, in which approximately 2.2 million Americans are currently behind bars and a with total of 10 million individuals cycling in and out of the United States correctional system. This equates to the correctional system providing healthcare to 1 in 30 living American adults" (Rich, paragraph 2). Improved healthcare for these individuals would mean improved health for the millions who have both been directly and indirectly associated with incarceration. Examples of individuals who have been indirectly affected by incarceration are inmate's family members (such as children), parents, and loved ones (Rich, paragraph 4). "Research has shown that families of former inmates may suffer as much as the offender, in very much similar ways" (Weidner, paragraph 12). For example, the aforementioned individuals could face a lack of access to health care since employer based health insurance is quite common. This means that many spouses and families can be left uninsured when the head of their household is incarcerated. Furthermore studies suggest that "mass imprisonment may harm the physical health of African American women by increasing their likelihood for risk factors including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease - a result of the financial, familial and stress burdens placed on those connected to incarcerated men" (Weidner, paragraph 14). Improving correctional healthcare could reduce help reduce at least a fraction of the stress the loved ones of inmates feel, at least in knowing that the incarcerated medical need are being met. Another example of individuals being indirectly affected by the correctional system are the children of the incarcerated. "Parental incarceration has been associated with increased drug use during late adolescence for males and females in the U.S" (Incarceration and health, section 6). In addition to the aforementioned individuals, those who are directly affected by correctional healthcare are an imperative component to the overall improvement of public health as well. Approximately 700,000 individuals are released from prison each and every year. Improved healthcare to these individuals could help alleviate some of the long-term health issues so often associated with incarceration. Research shows that individuals held in "prisons and jails typically have much higher rates of chronic and infectious diseases than the general population" (Weidener, paragraph 4). Given the fact that more than 95% of inmates return to the community, improving correctional healthcare conditions would lead to healthier more able-bodied members of the community, post incarceration. Due to the sheer number of Americans who are, in one way or another, linked to the correctional healthcare system, improvement in this sector could have a positive collateral impact to overall public health.
In addition to the aforementioned information, improving correctional health can help decrease many prevalent communicable diseases among the general population. The main reason for this is that many individuals who are a part of the corrections system carry infectious, but curable diseases. This includes, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases, just to name a few (Glasser, paragraph 1). Tuberculosis is a great example of the positive effect proper correctional health can have on public health. Because TB is so prevalent in correctional facilities, the CDC pushed for action to enable screening, containment, and monitoring of TB in correctional facilities. This led to TB cases dropping by 66 percent from 1994-2014 (McKillop, paragraph 2). This example makes it safe to assume that taking a similar stance on other communicable diseases would produce a similar result. An example of this is hepatitis. Due to the epidemic of opioid use in the United States, intravenous drugs have contributed to a huge problem with hepatitis to both correctional facilities and the general public. This makes prison the perfect setting to help prevent the more rapid spread of hepatitis (McKillop, paragraph 3). This means that is if correctional healthcare takes the proper steps to help contain and control hepatitis, a significant decrease can occur in both correctional health and public health. Yet another communicable disease that plagues correctional facilities are sexually transmitted diseases. STD's are not only common in prisons but also among the general population. Treating and educating individuals in correctional facilities, could lead to fewer cases of STD's inside of prison and safer practices outside of prison (McKillop, paragraph 4). Moreover, although high rates of the aforementioned diseases make the close proximity in which prisoners live present a challenge to improve correctional health, this also provides a major opportunity to screen, diagnose and treat individuals that might other wise be hard to reach (i.e. poverty and not access to healthcare) (McKillop, paragraph 4). One example of a way to combat the challenge of improving healthcare within correctional facilities is the again, the treatment of hepatitis. In recent years, there has been a devolvement of "short course, easily tolerated, highly curative" treatment (Rich, paragraph 5). Another example is the treatment of mental health illnesses. Although difficult to treat, studies have shown that mental health illnesses can contribute to addiction. Treatment of mental health illnesses and in turn addictions would not only help improve conditions within correctional health but would also help with the transition from to inmate to community member, once again leading to a vast improvement in public health.
Lastly, by improving correctional health, we can help mitigate common health related factors often associated with recidivism, which in turn would have an incredibly positive impact on public health. By helping the formerly incarcerated rehabilitate and become healthy members of the public, we can help create healthier, happier, families, thus improving yet another sector of public health. In order to better understand the health related causes that lead to recidivism, it is imperative to examine two of the most prominent factors often associated with recidivism: mental health illness and addiction. These illnesses tend to go hand in hand. "Over 70% of prisoner with mental illness report regular drug or alcohol use in the month prior to incarceration" (Rich, paragraph 7). "Unfortunately, only 11% of individuals who have a substance use disorder receive drug treatment while incarcerated. For this reason, individuals who have chronic addictions have a higher risk of going through withdrawal while in custody and then overdosing when they return to the community" (Incarceration and health, section 3). Treating these illnesses within correctional facilities would be beneficial because it would provide individuals with an environment that would promote structure and sobriety (Rich, paragraph 8). Thus meaning that a correctional facility can be one the most efficient setting to help rehabilitate individuals who struggle with mental health illness and addiction. Moreover, treating these illnesses would better equip individuals to face reintegration into society and would help them better adapt to every day life outside of a correctional facility. Studies have shown that once released, formerly incarcerated bring their health issues with them (Weidner, paragraph 15). Further research indicated that victimization and crime tend to increase in likelihood in communities with high-incarceration rates. This translates to importance and urgency with which we need correctional healthcare reform, By giving former inmates a clean slate and providing them some of the tools that would help them succeed outside of a correctional facility, reform would lead to healthy individuals who would be less likely to reoffend and who would be more prone to having a positive influence on the health of their loved ones and their communities. This in turn could reduce the stress crime tends to cause on a community.
In summary, as a society we tend to look at correctional health care as a burden, although quite the opposite is true. Correctional healthcare reform can reform can lead to an improvement in health to the millions of non-incarcerated individuals who are affected directly an indirectly by the correctional system. Furthermore reform can also help curtail the spread of communicable diseases among the public, and even help mitigate some of the health related causes that tend to lead to recidivism. With careful and purposeful steps towards the improvement of correctional health care we can help those who are most vulnerable and unable to help themselves. By allocating resources, time and effort to the overall improvement of correctional healthcare, we are not only improving the lives of individuals in the correctional system, but also improving public health across the country.