People in prison are much more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions and mental health issues than people in the general population   

Research comparing people in and out of custody suggests that incarcerated people over age 50 are tend to have the health problems of people 10 to 15 years older



As a group, people in prison have historically had poor access to health care even before incarceration, with limited access to screening for chronic conditions or mental health issues. 

  • And once incarcerated, many can wait for significant periods before symptoms are detected and health conditions diagnosed

  • According to our analysis, medical staffing shortages in New York’s prisons have reached a crisis level. As of January 2018, there was a 23% vacancy rate for providers (including physicians, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners). Similarly, there were high vacancy rates for nurse administrators (10%), nurses (21%), pharmacists (13%), and dentists (17%).


Our aim is not only to unearth the scope of health and mental needs in state prisons, but also chart the systemic issues standing between individuals in need and the care to which they are entitled. We develop actionable, concrete policy and practice changes to resolve these issues.

We are specifically focused on:

  • Cancer detection and treatment, which is emerging as a central concern in state prisons given the growing percentage of people in prison who are aging or elderly.

  • HIV and Hepatitis-C infection, because our analysis suggests that many in prison with these conditions are going without diagnosis or care.

  • The under-use of medical parole, as our analysis shows that very few terminally ill individuals are released through this process. The majority is denied and a significant number of people die in custody before their requests for release are processed.

  • Reviewing the quality of mental health services, as our conversations with incarcerated individuals suggest a wide range in the availability and quality of care for those in need.