How Prison Health Care Could Reduce Rearrest Rates

By Christopher Zoukis

Recidivism is a growing problem in the United States.  There are many factors that cause released inmates to return to a life of crime and, eventual, incarceration.  Fewer opportunities, lack of access to prison education, lack of sustainable employment, and other factors contribute to America’s sky high recidivism rates.  But another factor, which is not often considered, is also worth a hard look: health care in American prisons. 

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Every year approximately 600,000 U.S. inmates are released from correctional custody.  Many of these men and women are released from prison with chronic physical or mental illness.  Few of those released have access to meaningful private health care or are knowledgeable about the public health care system.  Many of the physically and mentally ill former prisoners end up becoming a drain on local, state, and national economies simply because they don’t have the capability to improve their own mental or physical health and thus can’t live a productive, respectable life.

Why Lack of Health Care May Increase Recidivism

Due to the aforementioned issues, there appears to be a correlation between recidivism and access to meaningful prison healthcare; a lack of prison healthcare appears to result in enhanced recidivism rates, and the reverse is also true.  Furthermore, there is a decrease in rearrests for those in low income communities who have access to healthcare.  One is left to wonder, how come enhanced access to healthcare results in reduced re-arrest and recidivism rates?

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