The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 1 in 32 U.S. All prison systems receive people who have health care needs requiring specialists from a number of disciplines, including dentistry, psychology, optometry and pharmacy.
Prisoners have the same right to health care as everyone else in society, however, prison is a special setting for primary health care.
• primary care
• mental health
• infections – especially tuberculosis, bloodborne viruses including HIV and skin
• dependence, especially to drugs and alcohol.
Prisoners have some of the greatest health needs of the population; they experience disproportionately higher rates of infectious and chronic diseases, substance abuse, mental illness and trauma than the general population.
Health professionals should understand and seek to minimize the negative effects of the experience of prison and use the opportunities that prison can offer to benefit their patients. They must not be judgmental in any way and understand that every human being has the right to good healthcare.
Choosing a career in prison health offers the opportunity to make a real difference to prisoners lives.