State Prison Health Care Spotlight Series

To accompany its October 2017 report “Prison Health Care: Costs and Quality—How and Why States Strive for High-Performing Systems,” The Pew Charitable Trusts has published a series of analyses that explain key findings and themes on how health care is funded and delivered in state-run prisons, as well as how care continuity is facilitated upon release of those who have been incarcerated.

Prison health care sits at the intersection of pressing state priorities, including meeting constitutional obligations for treatment in prison, strengthening public health, protecting public safety, and practicing fiscal prudence. Yet states vary greatly in their provision of care, raising questions about whether differences reflect meaningful discrepancies in value and performance. Policymakers and administrators often lack the information they require to build and maintain systems that proactively make the most of diagnostic and treatment opportunities, and avert the harmful and expensive consequences of inattention or missteps.

Pew’s 50-state report, part of a portfolio of research on state and local correctional health care, examines prison health care spending and delivery systems; whether and how states monitor the quality of care provided—the critical counterpart to cost when assessing value; and strategies for facilitating care continuity when people are released. Officials can use such practical information and insights to help optimize policies and programs in the service of incarcerated individuals, state residents, and taxpayers.


Prison Health Care Costs and Quality

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Prison health care sits at the intersection of pressing state priorities. From protecting public safety to fighting disease and promoting physical and behavioral health, and from fine-tuning budgets that trim waste to investing in cost-effective programming with long-term payoffs, the health care that prisons provide to incarcerated individuals and the care that prisons facilitate post-release is a critical linchpin with far-reaching implications.

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