Contemporary Issues-Infectious Diseases Among Inmate Populations

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Contemporary Issues-Infectious Diseases among Inmate Populations DeAnna Huey
University of Phoenix

Contemporary Issues-Infectious Diseases among Inmate Populations

Infectious disease is any disease that is able to spread among our public and contained population, thus being called infectious. An infectious disease travels through the environment, as it passes from one person to another through means of airborne, droplets, contaminated water, clothes, bedding, utensils or anything that has come in contact with an infected person. Diseases spread as the result of direct personal contact with bacteria. The most pressing issue that our prisons face when dealing with communicable disease is population density. Inmates are living most of their days in eight by eight cells that would normally accommodate one person, and are sharing it with two or more additional inmates. This creates an environment where a disease can easily be transmitted from one person to another in a short period of time. With the prison systems revolving door of inmates every year, it is not easy to provide a detailed medical screen for every intake. The amount of inmates coming in and their lack of screening together creates an enviroment through which disease can be introduced into the population. Many inmates didn’t have or could not afford health insurance, and were unaware they had a disease, or were unable to afford treatment. So many inmates come through intake, and are unaware that they carry HIV, Hepatitis C, and other diseases, and are under the assumption that their initial health screen will detect the disease. This is simply a lack of knowledge, and lack of personal care before becoming incarcerated. Inmates think that they are in a disease screened environment, and still other will unknowingly carry the disease and possibly spread it because they are unaware they had it. Initial screenings may only test for diseases such as hepatitis C, and only certain diseases such as HIV will require a follow up visit, others just assume no news is good news and think everything came out fine. Prisons and houses of incarceration were developed and then combined in the 18th century in England and France. The penitentiary system was then developed in the 19th century in America. Prisons became a breeding ground for epidemical diseases that decimated the inmates. Because people were uneducated about communicable diseases and the make-up of microbial etiologies of transmissible diseases, the epidemic of these diseases served to reinforce the idea that the ill-health of prison inmates was somehow self-inflicted or divinely inspired. “From the 18th century on into the 20th century, few observers identified the degree to which deaths and disease among inmates were determined by the physical design, population density, administration, and the conditions of the prisons” (Greifinger, 2007). The history of disease in prison systems was affected by several issues; overcrowding, already infected person’s entering the prison systems, lack of medical care, treatment of diseases, violence, abuse, and many other contributing factors, thus plaguing the prison systems without having any protocols in place to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. “As of December 31, 2007, of the 2,319,258 incarcerated Americans, 31 percent (723,131) were locked up in jails. While figures vary widely by state, the operating costs per inmate averaged almost $ 24,000, and capital expenses per bed averaged $ 65,000 in 2006. Healthcare costs are the fastest growing category of prison operations, currently accounting for 8 to 12 percent of total prison budgets” (Awofeso, 2008.) The present circumstances surrounding the spread of infectious diseases among inmate populations continues to grow at a rapid rate due to the lack of financial funds available to the prisons. Provision of good quality healthcare is necessary to facilitating physical...
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