Justice Reform

Prison Deaths can be Prevented Through Proper Healthcare

Prison sentences, whether short or lengthy, affect the health and well-being of every inmate. Russell Webster published an article about why so many people are dying in prisons. Many die from natural causes but at an alarming younger age compared to those not serving time, as “the average age for someone dying of natural causes in prisons is 56, compared with 81 in the general population.” The number of natural deaths in prisons has risen from 103 in June 2009 to 179 in June 2020. Many facilities are looking at what causes these prison deaths and what can be done to prevent them, especially during the times when COVID-19 can dramatically affect individual’s health.

As defined by HMPPS, natural cause deaths are “any death of a person as a result of a naturally occurring disease process.” However, in some cases, prison deaths could have been prevented as stated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) and Coroners, even though they were classified as naturally occurring. These deaths are avoidable but due to harsh prison living conditions there continues to be an increase in the rising number of deaths.

Many prisons are understaffed, overcrowded and face many barriers when it comes to providing basic care and resources for inmates and staff. Another big factor is access to healthcare. “The PPO have found that care is particularly poor for the youngest age groups (15-34 years), with just over half receiving equivalent care compared to that received in the community.” Many individuals have underlying health issues that only worsen as time goes on and they do not have sufficient access to healthcare while imprisoned. It was found that only 36% of prisoners received proper and timely investigations of their symptoms, which is an alarming rate.

Facilities are pressed for resources and providing care as they are understaffed, causing individuals to be neglected of care and treatments. More focus should be going towards providing healthcare services to incarcerated individuals, as many prison deaths are preventable with the proper resources and these individuals deserve to have the same lifespan as those not behind bars.