Prison and jail inmates are sicker than the general population and less likely to get medical care for acute and chronic conditions, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
The 1.2 million state prison inmates are 55% more likely to have diabetes and 90% more likely to have suffered a heart attack than the general U.S. population, according to the study, which analyzed data from a 2002 survey of local jail inmates and a 2004 survey of federal and state prison inmates. Some 800,000 inmates reported a chronic medical condition.
Access to care was worst in jails and best in federal prisons. One-fourth of jail inmates with a severe injury received no medical attention, compared with 12% in state prisons and 8% in federal prisons, according to the report.
A substantial percentage of inmates have serious medical needs yet many of them do not get even minimal care, Andrew Wilper, lead author of the report and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said in a written statement. The report was co-authored by physicians at Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance.
About 12 million inmates are released into society each year, and the communities they re-enter bear the costs of untreated illnesses and preventable disabilities, Wilper said.