The New England Journal of Medicine
Because of policies of mass incarceration over the past four decades, the United States has incarcerated more people than any other country on Earth. As of the end of 2016, there were nearly 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails.1 People entering jails are among the most vulnerable in our society, and during incarceration, that vulnerability is exacerbated by restricted movement, confined spaces, and limited medical care. People caught up in the U.S. justice system have already been affected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and improved preparation is essential to minimizing the impact of this pandemic on incarcerated persons, correctional staff, and surrounding communities.
Populations involved with the criminal justice system have an increased prevalence of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections and tuberculosis. Disparities in social determinants of health affecting groups that are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated — racial minorities, persons who are unstably housed, persons with substance use disorders or mental illness — lead to greater concentrations of these illnesses in incarcerated populations. Yet implementation of interventions to address these conditions is often challenging in correctional settings owing to resource limitations and policy constraints. Therefore, comprehensive responses that straddle correctional facilities and the community often need to be devised.
For example, HCV, which is the most prevalent infectious disease in incarcerated populations, is most commonly spread through injection drug use. Transmission can be reduced using measures known to reduce high-risk behaviors, such as opioid agonist therapy and syringe exchange. Although much of the country has yet to implement these strategies in correctional settings, managing transitions in care to and from the community and providing such services to people after incarceration has a large impact. Similarly, we have learned that controlling infections such as HIV and HCV in correctional settings can have positive effects both in these settings and on surrounding communities, as a form of treatment as prevention.
TO CONTINUE READING: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2005687