Jail Healthcare

Jails are local correctional institutions that are on the front-line of healthcare in the criminal justice system. They process 13 million admissions a year.  Jail inmates are disproportionately male, people of color, and poor.

Many of these individuals experience serious health problems. Half of jail inmates and prisoners have a chronic health condition. Nearly two thirds of jail inmates meet clinical criteria for substance abuse or dependence, and more than 40 percent have a history of a mental health problem.

Public safety stakeholders are not unaware of this trend. Sheriffs and wardens throughout the country frequently comment about how their institutions have become de facto mental health institutions and how jails are poorly equipped to serve in that role.

Even though jails are not considered healthcare delivery sites, considerable resources are dedicated to medical care in these settings, including intake assessments, sick call, chronic medical and mental health care, emergency responses.

Whether a justice involved person receives treatment in a jail or the community, there is little coordination between jail and community providers. As a result, treatments are interrupted impacting the health of the individual and potentially the health of the community.

COCHS' Mission

Since its beginning Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) has worked to bridge the gap between correctional and community providers. COCHS' major emphasis has been to re-frame jail healthcare not as a place separate from the rest of the community but as another healthcare delivery site within the community.

This perspective has many advantages. Coordination of care between community and correctional providers helps reduce interruption of treatments and the negative impact these interruptions can pose to individual health, community health, and community resources.

As part of its mission, COCHS provides technical assistance to assist communities in finding ways to improve healthcare in local correctional facilities as well as providing expertise on health information technology to create connectivity and data sharing. COCHS has also been the leader in identifying policies at the federal, state, and local levels that help local jurisdictions address the healthcare needs of their community members who are temporarily displaced within correctional institutions.

Stakeholders whether they be criminal justice professionals, policy makers, or health care providers seldom interact. COCHS has convened multiple conferences and working groups so these groups can exchange ideas and find solutions to the health crises that lead many people to cycle through jails.

What's New

Stories and news items of note impacting healthcare within corrections
Tracking Incarcerated Individual Mortality in Local Jails
AJHP
Mortality trends in most of America’s 3000 local jails are almost impossible to discern because jail-by-jail death data collected by the federal government is kept secret—unavailable to the public, news organizations and researchers, and even government officials. Reuters filled the information gap by requesting 12 years of death data from 523 local jails. This data shows that mortality rates in these institutions are two or three times the national average.
South Dakota governor lifts mask requirement in prisons
Bismarck Tribune
Staff and inmates at South Dakota prisons are no longer required to wear masks following an order from Gov. Kristi Noem lifting the requirement. The Republican governor's move, made after a meeting with prison staffa, comes as virus cases have seen a recent uptick and defies a recommendation from the CDC that masks still be worn in facilities like prisons where large numbers of people are in close proximity to each other.
Medical debt was cut nearly in half in states that expanded Medicaid
Vox
Medicaid expansion doesn’t just provide more people health insurance — it appears to cut medical debt enormously. The Affordable Care Act offered states a huge infusion of federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults, and about 30 states took that deal right away. Since then, new medical debt in those states has fallen 44 percent, a bigger drop than was seen in the states that refused to expand the program. Those states showed only a 10 percent decline.


( What's New postings are updated weekly --previous postings are archived. )

COCHS' Weekly Update

COCHS sends out a weekly update of news stories covering healthcare within correctional institutions. These stories range from stories about local correctional institutions all the way to national initiatives. Occasionally, we will post announcements about COCHS or one of our partner organizations.