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
COCHS Announces Critical Support from RWJF and Aspen Health Strategy Group’s New Report on Health and Incarceration
COCHS is pleased to announce that COCHS is the recipient of another grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to further our essential work. This announcement comes on the heels of the release of a report Reducing the Health Harms of Incarceration from the Aspen Health Strategy Group (AHSG). A key recommendation from the AHSG’s report is to eliminate the inmate exclusion policy found in the Social Security Act
H.R.7233 - Keeping Incarceration Discharges Streamlined for Children and Accommodating Resources in Education Act
HR 7233 would amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to allow for incarcerated juveniles to receive the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment which is the child health component of Medicaid, allowing state Medicaid pay for them. There would be no services outside of screenings while incarcerated, but 30 days of targeted case management (TCM) upon release.
Biden Moves to Improve Public Health Conditions in Federal Prisons and Jails
Government Executive
The president instructed the Justice Department on Wednesday to take various steps over the next seven months to improve public health and conditions overall in federal jails and prisons. This directive was part of the executive order President Biden signed on the second anniversary of the killing of George Floyd.

( 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.