Can health inequalities be addressed? An assessment of Prisoner Health Services in New South Wales, Australia

Garry Eckstein (Essential Equity, Sydney, Australia)
Michael Levy (Centre for Health Research in Criminal Justice, Justice Health, Matraville, NSW 2036, Australia and University of Sydney, School of Public Health, Sydney, Australia)
Tony Butler (Centre for Health Research in Criminal Justice, Justice Health, Matraville, NSW 2036, Australia and University of New South Wales, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Sydney, Australia)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Publication date: 1 January 2007

Abstract

The poor health of prisoners was highlighted in the results of two comprehensive health surveys conducted with prisoners in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The capacity of a dedicated service to address the health needs of prisoners was tested through analysis of the health of two prisoner cohorts: a continuously serving cohort, and a cohort of prisoners who had been incarcerated and released during the period of interest, 1996‐2001. It appears that mental health services best addressed the needs of a stable prisoner population. Short‐stay prisoners do not gain any degree of benefit. Primary health and drug and alcohol services address the needs of prisoners less effectively, irrespective of their duration of stay. Women’s health was very poor on all measures that were assessed. With the exception of mental illness, the health inequalities that prisoners experience are not addressed by existing prisoner health services. This may be due to the magnitude of the burden of ill health among prisoners, or due to inadequate resources ‐ or some combination of both. While these results should not be taken as supportive of coercive institutionalisation (i.e. imprisonment) as a therapeutic option, there may be benefit in more humane and compassionate institutions for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals. The results highlight the potential for prisoner health service providers in redressing years of health neglect and the low levels of service utilisation by this group while in the communi

Keywords

Citation

Eckstein, G., Levy, M. and Butler, T. (2007), "Can health inequalities be addressed? An assessment of Prisoner Health Services in New South Wales, Australia", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 69-76. https://doi.org/10.1080/17449200601149247

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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