AMA Journal of Ethics. September 2017, Volume 19, Number 9: 903-910.
Access to health care is a constitutional right in the United States correctional system, and many incarcerated adults are newly diagnosed with chronic diseases in prison. Despite this right, the quality of correctional health care is variable, largely unmeasured and unregulated, and characterized by patients’ widespread distrust of a health system that is intimately tied to a punitive criminal justice system. Upon release, discontinuity of care is the norm, and when continuity is established, it is often hindered by distrust, discrimination, poor communication, and racism in the health system. In this paper, we will propose best practices in transitioning from correctional- to community-based health care and argue that achieving health equity for people with criminal justice involvement in the United States is not possible without ethical provision of health care.