The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new report (PDF) this month on the health of incarcerated people in state and federal lock-ups from 2011-12. The study focused on both prisoners (i.e. people serving longer sentences) and jail inmates (i.e. people awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences), and found they were not only more likely to have had chronic medical conditions and/or infectious disease than the general population, but were also often denied prescription medication after admission. The report also mentions that incarcerated women and prisoners over 50 suffered at disproportionately higher rates from chronic and infectious medical conditions than the rest of the population.
Over 40% of prisoners and inmates surveyed by the bureau reported current, chronic medical conditions, defined as “noninfectious medical problems, such as cancer, high blood pressure, stroke-related problems, diabetes, heart-related problems, kidney-related problems, arthritis, asthma and cirrhosis of the liver.” Specifically, prisoners and jail inmates were 1.5 and 2 times more likely to report high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma than the general public (respectively) and their rate of diabetes and high blood pressure had nearly doubled from 2004. Around 24% said they had more than one chronic condition.
Additionally, about 21% of prisoners and 14% of jail inmates reported “ever having tuberculosis, hepatitis, or other STDs excluding HIV or AIDS, compared to 5% of the general population.” The bureau found that, across the board, incarcerated people were more likely to have had an infectious disease at some point in their life than others.
The bureau also found that 36% of prisoners stopped taking their prescribed medications upon incarceration because a doctor “did not think medication was necessary or that the facility would not provide the medication.” Continue reading
As prisoners, advocates and journalists warned of deteriorating conditions in Ohio’s prisons over the past year, the inmate population slowly crept back up to around 30% over capacity.
During that time, prisoners in the buckeye state were fed spoiled, inedible meals by the food contractor Aramark, sometimes tainted with maggots. They also suffered abuse and abysmal conditions at private prisons operated by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), bad enough to inspire a 14-hour peaceful protest. Have the events of this past year finally generated enough misery and public scrutiny to pressure Ohio officials to act?
Without the funding to add more beds to the prison system, Ohio Prison Director Gary Mohr was initially considering reducing the inmate population through ’emergency early release.’ According to the law, Mohr could declare an overcrowding emergency, recommending some nonviolent prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences for early release. This declaration must be approved by Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), which includes members of the state legislature and oversees prisons in the state. If the CIIC disagrees with or ignores the declaration, it is sent to the Governor for a final decision.
Mohr had asked the state assembly to make some ‘changes‘ to the early release law, but declined to specify exactly what those changes would entail. The law is just shy of 20 years old and has never been used before. And it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be used any time soon, either: the Coshocton Tribune reports that Mohr is now saying early release is “not going to happen.”
It’s not hard to understand why that may be. Continue reading
UPDATE: Lane has been captured. What’s next?
In April, Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) inspected the Allen Oakwood Correctional Center. They found the facility overcrowded and over capacity, but still gave it ‘high marks.’
The committee noted that one of its main concerns was the conditions of confinement for “higher security inmates […] including ones in the Protective Control Unit.”
The CIIC also noted that, although there hadn’t been any escapes, there were at least two attempts in the past two years. There was also a growing number of violent incidents taking place at the prison, with an astounding 60% increase in inmate-on-staff violence from 2012-2013.
News outlets are reporting tonight that 19 year-old TJ Lane and one other inmate have escaped from Allen Oakwood. Lane was in the high security protective custody area the CIIC had warned staff about, and it seems conditions haven’t much improved in the past five months. Continue reading