The issue of contagious diseases in detention settings is gaining attention in the medical community. In December 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was launching a prison health database to raise awareness of and monitor problems related to communicable diseases in prisons. The database will be part of WHO's Health in Prisons Project (HIPP), which was implemented in 1995. WHO advocates the improvement of healthcare available to prisoners and stresses the importance of health promotion in prisons, to better protect both prisoners and the general public. See: www.euro.who.int/prisons. In the United States, many local communities are preparing for a major flu pandemic, notably Asian bird flu. Rachel Schwartz., Ph.D., a researcher at the Institute for Biosecurity at the Saint Louis (Missouri) University School of Public Health, has warned that prisons and jails are totally unprepared for such outbreaks. At her presentation at the Correctional Medicine Institute's 2006 conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Schwartz called America's two million plus prisoners ?a highly vulnerable population.? A January 11, 2007 article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine addressed the issue of HIV among prisoners, describing prisons and jails as “reservoirs” of HIV infection. The article's author, Dr. Susan Okie, noted that U.S. prison systems do not meet international guidelines for reducing HIV because they do not make clean needles or condoms available to prisoners, protocols that have been proven to reduce HIV transmission. Further, Dr. Felipe Arias, the statewide HIV medical director for the Pennsylvania DOC, spoke about the need to address HIV among prisoners at Kentucky's statewide HIV/AIDS Conference held from May 9-11, 2007. Dr. Arias noted that around 25% of people with HIV will be incarcerated at least once, which means prisons and jails are an ideal location to make an impact on the disease. Internationally, a working paper entitled Tackling Blood Borne Viruses in Prison, released by the National AIDS Trust in conjunction with the Prison Reform Trust on April 30, 2007, emphasizes HIV and HCV education and guidance in the United Kingdom's prison system. Another recent research study examined the treatment of HIV-positive prisoners in Thailand. Such attention and concern may be too little, too late. A health care disaster is in the making each day as the public turns its back on over two million prisoners in overcrowded facilities, disregards their medical needs, and ignores the contagious diseases they will transfer to communities upon their eventual release. Third world countries may have similar problems but there are crucial differences. First and foremost is the sheer number of prisoners in the United States. With 5% of the world's population, the United States has over 25% of the world's prisoners. Each year at least 650,000 prisoners are released from prisons back to their communities and millions cycle through the nation's jails each year. Put in perspective, England and Germany both have around 80,000 prisoners each, less than Florida and New York. India has 313,000 prisoners, which is less than the combined prison populations of California and Texas. Second, to the extent poor countries have less resources to spend on prison health care, which is not the case in the United States where the resources are available but instead the political decision has been made that prisoners are an expendable population not worth spending money on for medical care. In this respect the “correctional” dumping grounds for America's prisoners have become breeding grounds for infectious epidemics, with severe consequences for both prisoners and the public alike.
Sources: Columbus Dispatch, Baltimore Sun, Boston Herald Reporter, Hanford Sentinel, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bradenton Herald, Associated Press, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, Montgomery Advertiser, AFSC The Vision, Siskiyou Daily, Post Star, Boston Telegram, Detroit News, N.J. Express Times, The Enquirer, Duluth News-Tribune, Palm Beach Post, Atchison Daily Globe, Pittsburg Tribune-Review, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Express Times, Washington Times, San Antonio KENS 5 News, medicalnewstoday.com, democracynow.org, kentucky.com http://www.prisonlegalnews.org/Visitors/(S(5hwxolbsw0bfnrz4ytcqpxaa))/displayArticle.aspx?articleid=19048&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
Words from Dwight Rawlinson (TPLU) regarding the MRSA:
“...is a regular Staph infection that has become resistant to medicines. The National news has run reports of several people dieing recently from it. One a lady in hospital and another, a young boy they say caught it at school. I saw it at work inside TDC when I was there in '95/'96. It gets into the fatty tissues-- checks, arm pits etc. and large pussy boils result. TDC cloths-- if worn by one who has it, will stay in the cloths to the next wearer if the wash etc. temperatures are not high enough and usually they are not. It can be transferred from puss left on toilet seats, sinks, bed pans etc. and is VERY expensive to treat and as we are seeing-- CAN KILL. “ by John E. Dannenberg