The unmet medical needs of correctional populations in the United States

Academic Article


  • The goal of this study was to document the health needs of members in the criminal justice system and the capacity of the system to meet those needs. Using data from the National Criminal Justice Treatment Practices survey, we estimated the number of adults under correctional control who need medical care and the capacity of the correctional system to provide needed care. A mailed survey of 431 adult correctional agencies and administrators was used to define the capacity and techniques of the correctional system to meet the medical needs of the offender population. Most offenders in jail and prison received tuberculosis screening, physical health services, and mental health screening and treatment. Screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and provision of detoxification or methadone maintenance were universally absent, regardless of criminal justice setting. Community corrections settings were lacking in most health care areas. Prisons and jails are constitutionally mandated to provide health care; however, community corrections agencies are not federally required to provide health services. While community correction settings have the lowest provision of health care services, prisons and jails also demonstrate a deficiency in most services, but particularly for STD screening, substance abuse detoxification, and opioid maintenance therapies.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cropsey KL; Binswanger IA; Clark CB; Taxman FS
  • Start Page

  • 487
  • End Page

  • 492
  • Volume

  • 104
  • Issue

  • 11-12