Prison Health Disparity and Substance Use

Subject: Public Health
Pages: 2
Words: 608
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Master

Inmate Population as a Health Disparity

The prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in prisons and the high number of inmates suffering from these conditions indicates that prison contributes to these disparities. A high number of inmates suffering from chronic illnesses were either imprisoned while already on medications for these conditions or contracted them in prison. Those who acquired these conditions before incarceration experience a variation in the quality of care (Trotter et al., 2018). The prisons offer poor healthcare services and these conditions worsen in these patients, eventually leading to many deaths. Other prisoners acquire the conditions while in prison and these diseases are identified after progressing to fatal stages. These patients eventually die from these conditions as their prognosis is poor at the time of identification.

The prison system is characterized by understaffing, with few professionals being available for these inmates. Most prisons lack specialist doctors and mainly rely on the services of medical officers and nurses. The prisons also lack sufficient technological equipment, such as modern screening equipment for the identification of diseases. This is a major weakness in the prison systems as the diseases affecting most patients are not treated at the onset. The availability of drugs is also a challenge, as most prisons lack an adequate budget to cater to these vital medicines (Berwick et al., 2021). The treatment of various ailments is flawed within these prisons and the majority of the patients do not receive treatment. Emergency treatment services are unavailable at the prisons and the transfer of inmates to other healthcare centers is the main mode of operation (Simpson et al., 2021). The transportation process ensures the conditions worsen and the treatment process bears poor outcomes. The congestion within the prisons also causes the rapid spread of communicable diseases such as respiratory conditions due to the restriction on movement.

Substance Use in Prison Population

The use of drugs and substances within prisons is prevalent in US jails and is responsible for the inefficiency of the rehabilitation process intended by the prison system. The widespread substance use is associated with many factors, including the prior use of substances before incarceration. Many prisoners who indulge in substance abuse were arrested for being indulged in crimes under the influence of drugs or crimes involving drugs (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2020). Crimes involving drugs include being involved in drug abuse or trade, hence arrest and incarceration. The use of drugs in prisons is a pandemic that is responsible for many healthcare-related conditions that have presented significant difficulty in combating. Drugs such as cigarettes, cocaine, and marijuana are abused in prisons and are responsible for conditions such as cancer (Harrison et al., 2019). Cigarette smoking is associated with colorectal carcinoma and lung cancer, conditions that are identified during late stages and are mostly incurable.

The abuse of drugs within the prison is a coping mechanism for some prisoners who were not prior abusers before their incarceration. These inmates result to drug intake as a consolation and as a means of combating the reality, which is their deteriorated life. Substance use within prisons is a menace that has been enhanced by the widespread corruption that is facilitated by prison administrations (Fazel et al., 2017). Some compromised guards are directly involved in the sale of drugs or indirectly take bribes to allow some prisoners to sell these drugs. Combating the drug abuse menace within the prison system is an urgent need that will contribute to better inmate health. The elimination of substance use will ensure that prisons attain their mandate of rehabilitating inmates and preventing escapism that is facilitated by the use of drugs.


Berwick, D. M., Beckman, A. L., & Gondi, S. (2021). The triple aim applied to correctional health systems. JAMA, 325(10).

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Simpson, P. L., Guthrie, J., Jones, J., & Butler, T. (2021). Identifying research priorities to improve the health of incarcerated populations: results of citizens’ juries in Australian prisons. The Lancet Public Health, 0(0).

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