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The impact of correctional institutions on public health during a pandemic or emerging infection disaster

Rachel D. Schwartz, PhD

Abstract


With the growing threat of a naturally occurring or man-made global pandemic, many public, private, federal, state, and local institutions have begun to develop some form of preparedness and response plans. Among those in the front lines of preparedness are hospitals and medical professionals who will be among the first responders in the event of such a disaster. At the other end of the spectrum of preparedness is the Corrections community who have been working in a relative vacuum, in part because of lack of funding, but also because they have been largely left out of state, federal local planning processes. This isolation and lack of support is compounded by negative public perceptions of correctional facilities and their inmates, and a failure to understand the serious impact a jail or prison facility would have on public health in the event of a disaster. This article examines the unique issues faced by correctional facilities responding to disease disasters and emphasizes the importance of assisting them to develop workable and effective preparedness and response plans that will prevent them from becoming disease repositories spreading illness and infection throughout our communities. To succeed in such planning, it is crucial that the public health and medical community be involved in correctional disaster planning and that they should integrate correctional disaster response with their own. Failure to do so endangers the health of the entire nation.

Keywords


pandemic, correctional disaster planning, public health, preparedness

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2008.0023

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