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Poor Healthcare Led to 885 Deaths in US Jails in 2011

The failure of U.S. jails to provide proper medical care for their inmates has led to a high number of deaths. Jails, unlike prisons, do not hold convicted criminals, but rather those accused of crimes for which they await trial. Sixty-six percent of the time charges are dropped and those held are released after the humiliating process, yet while confined they are treated as if they are already convicted criminals.

There have been repeated cases where individuals in jails have suffered from illnesses and have pleaded for help with no success, in some cases resulting in their deaths. Doctors and nurses working in jails do not have always have the necessary medical history and background information on those who have been arrested. Lack of knowledge of inmates’ health records leads to poor care within jails. If an inmate is faced with major health issues, an off-site visit to the hospital is often the answer. But this requires an ambulance with police escort, which must be scheduled before the patient can be treated.

According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics there were 885 deaths among inmates in 2011. Security is often more important than patient care.  “Whether guilty or innocent, people in the criminal justice system are still people,” Cara Tabachnick reports. “Their cries for help should not go ignored.”

Source: Cara Tabachnick, “There’s an Alarming Number of Deaths in US Jails” The Guardian, December 27, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/27/deaths-in-jails-885-inmates.

Student Researcher: Gabriel Colson (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: James J. Dean (Sonoma State University)

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