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Claims about prison healthcare cost 'without factual basis'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

"It is disappointing that Sensible Sentencing has chosen to start off 2014, with yet another claim which has no basis in fact" said Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesperson, Kim Workman, a former Deputy Director General of Maori Health, in the Ministry of Health. He was referring to claims made by Ruth Money, that the amount spent on prisoner healthcare was "obscene".

"Ruth Money claims that the standard of healthcare received by victims is lower than that received by prisoners. There is no evidence for that; what we do know is that the standard of care provided to prisoners, is of a low standard compared to that provided in the general community."

"Rethinking sees no value in comparing the health care of offenders to that of victims. The reduction of healthcare to prisoners is likely to increase the number of victims in society. Instead, it wants to see a reduction in the number of victims in the community. One way to do that is to ensure that those people who live in marginalised communities, and who are over-represented in the crime statistics, have access to high quality healthcare to address those health issues that contribute to offending. Community based drug and alcohol programmes, quality mental health services, accessible child care, and a public health strategy which addresses lifestyle issues for those living in poverty, all have the potential to keep our communities more safe."

"Prison is a microcosm of our marginalised communities, and the health status of prisoners reflect that. The prevalence of serious mental health conditions such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia are higher in the prison population than in the wider population. Alcohol abuse and dependence among men in prison is approximately twice that of men in the wider population. The prevalence of severe drug disorder is eight times that of the wider population. Research has found that 89 percent of prisoners have suffered a substance abuse disorder at some time in their lives, primarily alcohol and cannabis abuse and dependence. The same research found that nearly 60 percent of prisoners had a personality disorder. The lifetime prevalence of head injury among prisoners is high. Among women, the rate is 55 percent; among men, the rate is 64 percent. Almost seventy-four percent of Māori men in prison have had at least one head injury."

"There is also a major issue with communicable disease. The general population prevalence for hepatitis C is less than 0.3 percent compared with the prisoner prevalence of 8.1 percent for women and 5.8 percent for men."

"Rethinking believes that the approach to prisoner health care in New Zealand is seriously flawed. First, we need to develop a public health approach to prisoner healthcare, instead of addressing individual illness. Second, responsibility for the provision of healthcare should be transferred to the Ministry of Health."

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