• Article

Health behind bars: utilization and evaluation of medical care among jail inmates

Jail and prison inmates experience disproportionately high levels of chronic and acute physical health problems, resulting in increased utilization of health services in correctional institutions. Variations in both health status and health care utilization are likely, although several important factors have been under-researched. Gender, in particular, is presumed to influence health outcomes and use of medical care in correctional facilities. The current study explores the physical health status of a systematic sample of 198 male and female inmates incarcerated in a large county jail located in a medium-sized Southern city. Using multiple regression analysis, predictors of physical health status, utilization of medical care, and inmates' evaluations of the accessibility and quality of health care are identified. The results indicate that gender and age are the most consistent demographic predictors of health status and medical care utilization, with females and older inmates reporting higher morbidity and concomitantly higher numbers of medical encounters. The experience of incarceration also appears to influence the physical health of inmates, as self-reported health problems increase with inmates' duration of incarceration. Evaluations of jail medical care differ significantly by gender, with female inmates reporting more difficulty accessing health services, yet higher satisfaction with the quality of services received. The results suggest a need for medical care in correctional settings to adapt to the medical needs of older inmates and women, in addition to improving treatment for chronic conditions and preventive services


Lindquist, C. (1999). Health behind bars: utilization and evaluation of medical care among jail inmates. Journal of Community Health, 24(4), 285-303.