Health Status of the Prisoners in a Central Jail of South India

Article excerpt

Byline: Sunil. Kumar, Santosh. Kumar, Jayashree. Pattankar, Shrinivas. Reddy, Murali. Dhar

Background: Health care in prisons is one of the neglected health areas in our country. Looking into the health problems of prisons will show us a way for the approach in providing the heath care for prisoners. Objectives: To assess the health status of convicted inmates of prison and to study their sociodemographic profile. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among the inmates of central prison over a period of 1 year. Study population comprised of 300 convicted life-term prisoners. The inmates were interviewed using predesigned and pretested proforma. Sociodemographic data were analyzed by frequencies and percentages along with 95% confidence interval using statistical package SPSS18. Results: In health status, 29 (9.6%) inmates suffered from acute upper respiratory tract infections and 15 (5%) from acute lower respiratory tract infections. A total of 54 (18%) inmates had ascariasis. Diseases of musculoskeletal system and connective tissue contributed to 26 (8.7%) of inmates. A total of 252 (84%) prisoners had anemia. In sociodemographic profile, it was found that rural people, unmarried, illiterates, lower socioeconomic status people were more likely to have committed the crime resulting in the conviction for life. Conclusions: As there is an increase in number of prisoners and morbidities among them, there is an urgent need for prison health care services in developing countries like India and provide training to the health care providers to manage the commonly existing health problems among prisoners in the prisons.

Introduction

Prison population consists of an over representation of members of the most marginalized groups in society, people with poor health and chronic untreated conditions. This population is an underserved section of the society. Often their health problems are neglected. They carry a much greater burden of illness than other members of the society; they harbour diseases that are determined both by the environment out of which they come and by the prison in which they live. "Prison" means any jail or place used permanently or temporarily under the general or special orders of the state government for the detention of prisoners and includes all lands and buildings appurtenant thereto, but does not include any place for the confinement of prisoners who are exclusively in the custody of the police or any place declared to be a subsidiary jail. It is not a place where someone would like to live. Whatever are the reasons behind incarceration? Whether it is seen as a punishment or as a mode of rehabilitation? The normal life of the inmate is restricted, freedom of movement is curtailed, and private space is limited. Many of the prisons over the globe are overburdened; the population confined behind bars in the US in 2008 was in excess of 1.6 million. [sup][1] In India too, the situation is no better. There are about 1276 prisons in the country with an authorized accommodation of 2,77,304; however, the total number of jail inmates is nearing 4 lacs indicating severe overcrowding in prisons. [sup][2]

There are problems of drug abuse, alcoholism, trauma, homicide, suicide, violence, neuropsychiatric diseases, epilepsy, stress manifestations, HIV infection and AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, skin infections, and so on. In the walls of the jails, the lack of adequate health facilities amounts to society inflicting punishment twice, once by incarceration and a second time by illness. The second punishment has potential to get inflicted on the family of prisoners. For example, in case a prisoner in US prison, his undetected tuberculosis got ultimately transmitted to his wife and two children one of whom died. Reforming the delivery of prison health care is one of the most important aspects of improving human rights compliance. Therefore, knowing the burden and types of morbidities among them will help policy planners and administrators in taking actions to minimize the disease burden in this group and also to help in reintegration of prisoners into main stream of society following their discharge from prison. …

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