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Recommendations to improve the health and well-being of individuals incarcerated in US prisons

Adequately funded policies and procedures are needed to reduce health care disparities in access to and quality of health care for the US jail and prison population, says the American College of Physicians (ACP) in a new policy paper published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine is. . Healthcare during incarceration: A policy position paper from the American College of Physicians contains recommendations to improve the health and well-being of individuals incarcerated in adult correctional facilities.

ACP has a longstanding commitment to improving the health of all Americans and opposes any form of discrimination in the delivery of health care services, which extends to our incarcerated patients. Many incarcerated patients are dealing with significant unmet health care needs that can include chronic medical conditions, infectious diseases, substance use disorders, and mental health conditions. We must ensure that these patients receive the health care services they need.”

Ryan D. Mire, MD, MACP, President, ACP

ACP’s recommendations include adequate funding for and timely access to needed health care services that are evidence-based and meet community standards. They also recommend measures to ensure adequate nutrition; opportunity for physical activity; smoke-free policies and smoking cessation interventions; and access to recommended preventive health services. ACP further calls for policies to adequately treat both chronic non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases. This should include programs for the prevention and control of infectious diseases developed in conjunction with public health authorities. In addition, all persons entering correctional facilities must be screened for substance use disorders and behavioral health conditions and provided with treatment if necessary. ACP also supports policies that promote the treatment of patients with substance use disorders as an alternative to incarceration.

The paper also contains recommendations for population segments within correctional facilities. It includes recommendations on how to better meet the needs of incarcerated women; LGBTQ+ patients; aging patients and those living with disabilities or life-limiting illnesses; and immigrant populations.

Finally, the paper details how health care needs should be included in community reentry planning for individuals released from jail or prison so that they are able to continue to access health care and social services once they return to their communities. ACP specifically makes recommendations for policies that will help facilitate or restore state Medicaid enrollment.

“Incarceration can negatively impact the health and well-being of millions of patients, their families and communities across America,” said Dr. Mire closed. “As a society, we must fund and implement public policies that ensure access to medically necessary health care services during incarceration. ACP recognizes the vital importance of corrective health care in achieving health equity for all and promoting the public health of our communities.”


American College of Physicians

Journal reference:

Known, NE, et al. (2022) Health Care During Incarceration: A Policy Position Paper of the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. doi.org/10.7326/M22-2370.

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