Chronic and Infectious Diseases in Justice-Involved Populations

Items in the News Archive provide an opportunity to explore issues related to incarceration and health of justice-involved individuals in the United States from a media perspective. Please note that the articles listed below are by no means exhaustive. They represent a collection of relatively recent news items staff deemed relevant to the Center and its work. For more in-depth academic resources related to this topic, please select the corresponding category under the Educational Resources tab.

Helping Ex-Inmates Stay Out of the ER Brings Multiple Benefits
NPR, December 5, 2016
“In a randomized control trial looking at 200 recently released prisoners in San Francisco, Wang and her colleagues showed that bringing that population to see doctors significantly reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations. That lessens the strain on emergency departments, and the cost burden that emergency treatment puts on the health care system.”

Prisoners With Hep C Get Cured In Some States But Not Others
FiveThirtyEight, October 13 , 2016
“As these new and expensive drugs become the norm for treatment, it’s relatively certain that state prison systems will be on the hook to provide them to at least some inmates. But how many, and how much it will cost, appears to vary dramatically, according to data from a study released last week. And even at discounted prices, most states will spend millions of dollars a year just treating the worst cases of hepatitis C among inmates.”

How Does Incarceration Impact The Spread of HIV?
The Body, October 10, 2016
“Andrea Wirtz, Ph.D., one of the study’s co-authors and an assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is quick to clarify that it’s not that HIV transmission is rampant within U.S. jails and prisons. The availability of antiretroviral therapy in prison actually keeps the risk of transmission low behind bars…The risk arises once people are released and have difficulties continuing their medications. These interruptions mean they are no longer virally suppressed and thus are more at risk of transmission. ‘It’s right after release that there’s an increased risk of overdose and HIV transmission,’ she explained.”

Tennessee Inmates Sue Over Lack of Hepatitis C Treatment
Associated Press, July 26, 2016
“The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocates are alleging in U.S. District Court in Nashville that Tennessee Department of Correction officials are knowingly denying inmates care for their hepatitis C. The lawsuit alleges the department is denying care because the best available medication is too expensive”

Nevada Ending Discrimination Against Prisoners with HIV
U.S. News and World Report, July 21 , 2016
“The Justice Department concluded last month the state was violating inmates’ civil rights under the policies based largely on outdated and unfounded fears about the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. State Corrections Director James Dzurenda announced late Wednesday that inmates with HIV no longer will be segregated from the general prison population.”

Why Some Prisons are Spending Millions on a Pricey New Drug
The Marshall Project, February 22, 2016
“In New York, state prison spending on hepatitis C drugs increased more than 350% in the last two years alone, from $9.4 million in 2014 to a projected $44 million in 2016. Similar increases can be seen in California and the federal Bureau of Prisons, two large prison systems now treating hepatitis C on a large scale.”

Are States Obligated to Provide Expensive Hepatitis C Drugs?
Slateline, February 9, 2016
But because the drugs are so expensive, state Medicaid programs and prisons have been restricting them to people in the advanced stages of the disease. While they are waiting to meet that standard, patients with less advanced hepatitis C may develop cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure, which may necessitate a liver transplant. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 to 70 percent of those with hepatitis C will develop chronic liver disease; 5 to 20 percent will develop cirrhosis; and 1 to 5 percent will die of liver failure or liver cancer.

Treating Prisoners With Hepatitis C May be Worth the Hefty Price
NPR, November 23, 2015
“More than 15 percent of U.S. prison inmates are infected with Hepatitis C. The study, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that as many as 12,000 lives would be saved if inmates were screened and treated. And while it would cost a lot of money up front, over time the savings to society at large would be huge.”

California State Prison One of Four Prisons Providing Inmates with Condoms
Vallejo Times-Herald, October 8, 2015
Extending the availability of condoms will help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, hepatitis C and many others within CDCR facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STIs are prevalent in correctional settings, according to CDCR, as one in seven people in the United States with HIV will pass through the correctional system each year.”

Eliminating Hepatitis C Meaning Treating Prisoners
FiveThirtyEight, August 31, 2015
“It wasn’t until 1992 that we could even test for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Now we effectively have a cure, but at about $84,000 a person, it’s one of the most expensive drugs to ever hit the market…But prisoners, though they are the only group in the U.S. with a constitutional right to health care, are even more limited in access to treatment.”

Costly to Treat, Hepatitis C Gains Quietly in the U.S.
The New York Times, July 23, 2015
“Last year, Kentucky spent more than $50 million, about 7 percent of its total Medicaid budget, providing two of the new hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, to just 861 people, said Dr. John Langefeld, chief medical officer at the state’s Department for Medicaid Services.”

Don’t Get Cancer if You’re in Prison
Newsweek, July 22, 2015
“The problem is a structure that creates incentives to delay and deny care,” says David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “The reason to deny care is obvious—because you save money, particularly when you’re talking about conditions like cancer, which can’t be treated on-site by the prison doctor. Those patients have to be sent out to specialists. That gets very expensive. That’s an area where we very often see private providers cutting corners.”

Denver Sheriff Signs Deal to Help Pay for HIV Drugs for Jail Inmates
The Denver Post, May 14, 2015
“HIV-positive inmates will leave Denver’s jails with a supply of anti-viral medication now that the department has signed an agreement with the state’s public health department. The state also will supply the HIV medication to inmates incarcerated for longer than 30 days, the Denver Sheriff Department has announced.”

Inmates, Monterey County Reach Deal in Medical Care Lawsuit
Monterey Herald, May 11, 2015
“The deal lays the groundwork for improvements in medical, dental and mental health care, disability access, safety and suicide prevention. It also calls on the county to develop plans for adequate staffing and increase the use of alternative custody programs to alleviate crowding at the county’s troubled jail.”

Study tallies huge cost of hepatitis C drugs for RI prisons
Brown University, April 9, 2015
“Correctional systems are obliged to treat inmates but, as a new study of Rhode Island prisons shows, treating every chronically infected inmate in the state with expensive but effective hepatitis C drugs would cost nearly twice as much as the entire correctional health budget. Treating only the sickest would still far outstrip the pharmaceutical budget.”

Needle-exchange program promotes safety, trust to fight HIV, hepatitis
The State Journal-Register, April 4, 2015
“An average of seven times each weekday, someone walks into Springfield’s Phoenix Center to pick up a packet of free syringes that includes alcohol swabs, an elastic tourniquet and tubes of sterile water. The center’s staff takes care — with facial expressions, words and body language — not to make any judgments about the clients seeking clean needles and other supplies to make intravenous drug abuse as safe as possible.”

Lawsuits: Alabama Jailers Allowed 3 Inmates to Die of 19th-Century Ailments
Mother Jones, October 22 2014
On August 6, 2013, officers at the Madison County jail in Huntsville, Alabama, moved an inmate named Duendrez Woods to a medical watch cell. Woods, 19, was suffering from an open wound on his foot and had begun hallucinating. But the jail didn’t provide him with any medical treatment. In the following days, they tased Woods for being uncooperative—three times. Woods began lying naked on the floor. He barely moved except when officers dragged him into the showers to hose off the stench of his injury. At no point did anyone treat Woods’ oozing foot or even take his blood pressure. On August 21, Woods died. The cause was complications related to gangrene, a condition in which tissue dies around an untreated wound.

By 2030, American Prisons Will Be Filled With Grandmas and Grandpas
The Nation, October 27, 2014
More than thirty years ago, Mohaman G. Koti shot a police officer during a parking ticket dispute in which no one was killed. He is now in his late 80s and suffers from asthma and a neuromuscular disorder. He doesn’t hear so well, either. Yet Koti, a well-known peacemaker behind prison walls, was denied parole every two years beginning in 2005 because New York State still considered him a risk to public safety. The state did this despite the fact that it costs, on average, twice as much to lock up a stooped grandfather with digestive problems as it does to hold a healthy young man—and can sometimes cost as much as five times more.

For Inmates in Texas Prisons, Extreme Heat Is Its Own Death Sentence
CITYLAB, October 30, 2014
Sarah Kendrick started work as a corrections officer at the Clemens Unit prison in Brazoria County, Texas, in July 1998—the height of summer. She was posted in the cell block and the laundry room. With no air conditioning, the high temperatures everywhere in the building were excruciating.

Condoms in the Clink
Al Jazeera America, November 6, 2014
“Do you guys want condoms?” Deputy Javier Machado, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, asks a dormitory full of prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail. “If you want condoms you need to get in line. If not, I need you on your bunk.”

Vera Institute of Justice Launches New Initiative to Reduce Mass Incarceration’s Impact on Public Health
Vera Institute of Justice, November 18, 2014
The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) today announced the launch of the Justice Reform for Healthy Communities initiative, which aims to raise awareness about the link between mass incarceration and public health, devise and share solutions that improve health outcomes, and increase the use of alternatives to incarceration. The national initiative will apply the tools of public health, coupled with new opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act, to address the challenges posed by mass incarceration.

Managed Medicaid Braces for Influx of Ex-Inmates
Managed Care, November 2014
Most people don’t lose sleep worrying about health care services provided to inmates in jails or prisons, but maybe they should. Lack of proper coverage is a major cause of recidivism, experts say, but this year the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows inmates to sign up for Medicaid. This comes with challenges, and health insurance plans involved in managed Medicaid gird themselves to handle an influx of beneficiaries who have historically had little or nothing to do with the health system.

Mass Imprisonment and Public Health
The New York Times, November 26, 2014
When public health authorities talk about an epidemic, they are referring to a disease that can spread rapidly throughout a population, like the flu or tuberculosis.

But researchers are increasingly finding the term useful in understanding another destructive, and distinctly American, phenomenon — mass incarceration. This four-decade binge poses one of the greatest public health challenges of modern times, concludes a new report released last week by the Vera Institute of Justice.

Maine Voices: Time has come to integrate treatment of mental and physical illness
Portland Press Herald, November 28, 2014
Tens of millions of Americans who live with mental illness also suffer from a serious co-occurring physical condition. Because of this, many people with persistent mental illness die as much as 25 years earlier than the rest of the population, according to national studies. The research clearly demonstrates that such early deaths are, for the vast majority of these people, directly related to their poor physical health.

States cope with big bill for Hepatitis C drugs
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 30, 2014
It’s been almost a year since federal regulators approved a new hepatitis C treatment that costs about $1,000 per pill. But time hasn’t done much to ease concerns of state officials who worry about the drug’s budget-busting potential.

Missouri officials estimate the new drug therapy cost the state $30 million through October of this year. Illinois says it spent $16 million during the last fiscal year that ended in July.

Prison health faces poor quality accusations
The Clarion-Ledger, December 6, 2014
State corrections officials disregarded risk to the health and safety of young prisoners at the Walnut Grove prison, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves concluded in a scathing March 22, 2012, report on the then GEO Group-run facility.

Physicians with spotty records hired to treat Ga. inmates
Associated Press, December 14, 2014
Several physicians who have been cited for misconduct by medical boards in Georgia and other states are now working in Georgia state prisons.

AbbVie Deal Heralds Changed Landscape for Hepatitis Drugs
The New York Times, December 22, 2014
In a sign that price competition may take hold for hepatitis C drugs, the nation’s largest manager of prescriptions will require all patients to use AbbVie’s newly approved treatment rather than two widely used medicines from its rival Gilead Sciences.

When Prisoners are Patients
The New York Times, January 3, 2015
It’s an odd thing, to take care of someone who is chained to a bed, guarded 24/7 by bored corrections officers idling away time with TV and card games, who cannot receive visitors or even phone calls. But it happens when prison inmates are sick enough that they need care that only a hospital can provide.

Old age in the big house
Al Jazeera America, January 6, 2015
It’s time for George Hall to come to the conference room, so he puts down his headphones and pivots his wheelchair away from the Brothers word processor he’s been using all morning to work on a friend’s legal brief. He navigates out of his room and into the antiseptic corridors, emitting a few coughs from chronic bronchitis. That’s the least of his health woes; he’s recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and can’t walk, because of inoperable herniated lumbar discs in his back.