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Public Health and Safety in Prisons

Prisons pose unique public and mental health problems. Many prisoners are poorly educated, of limited intelligence, behaviorally impaired, and, increasingly, drug addicted. They are crowded together in communal facilities with marginal provisions for sanitation. In some systems, nearly 20 percent of newly incarcerated prisoners are HIV infected, posing a direct risk to other prisoners through sexual assault. Indirectly, HIV infection poses a risk through its suppression of normal immune system function. Immunosuppressed patients are also of susceptible to diseases such as tuberculosis. More critically, providing humane care for HIV-infected prisoners will outstrip the prison health resources in the states with substantial HIV-infected prisoner populations.


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