Federal Strategy Is Needed To Help Improve Medical and Dental Care in Prisons and Jails

GGD-78-96: Published: Dec 22, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1978.

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The health care delivery systems of most prisons and jails are inadequate because of deficiencies in ensuring adequate levels of care, physical examinations, medical records, staffing, facilities, and equipment. Officials said that they lacked funds to make improvements. Should those needs continue to be underfunded, it is critical that ways to improve utilization of all available resources be examined.

Inmates' health needs can only be learned by giving them thorough physical examinations. Medical and dental records must be complete and confidential. Sufficient, qualified health staff should be available. Prisons and jails should meet national medical and dental care standards for the services they provide, or obtain these services in the community.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration should: develop and implement a Federal strategy to help State and local governments bring their prison and jail health care delivery systems into compliance with standards promulgated by the American Correctional Association and the American Medical Association; and incorporate into the Federal strategy the appropriate expertise and resources of the U.S. Public Health Service, National Institute of Corrections, and U.S. Marshals Service (to participate, State and local governments should be required to determine the medical and dental needs of their inmates and the proper mix of resources to meet those needs and implement whatever health care standards they can within their existing resources). The U.S. Public Health Service should: closely monitor its newly initiated Prison Health Program and, if successful, expand it within the Federal strategy; provide grants to help State and local correctional institutions bring their medical and dental facilities into compliance with existing standards, and explore the feasibility of utilizing other applicable assistance programs within the Federal strategy; and encourage State and local health planning agencies to participate in the Federal strategy and programming for community health improvements. The U.S. Marshals Service should assist in the Federal strategy by providing technical assistance and funding for improving medical and dental care at those contract facilities. To upgrade the level of health care in Federal institutions, the Bureau of Prisons should: reexamine its policy on physical examinations to include biennial examinations of all inmates about to be released; replace inmates working in sensitive positions, such as maintaining medical records, with qualified civilian personnel; and take appropriate actions to assure 24-hour coverage by qualified medical personnel at all institutions.

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