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Correctional medical services are medical services which are offered to people who are incarcerated. Caring for people in jails and prisons requires a special skill set, and medical professionals who choose to work in the field of corrections typically receive unique training which ensures that they can serve their patients effectively. One notable provider of medical personnel to the corrections community in the United States is Correctional Medical Services (CMS), which provides staffing in 18 states.
Most nations believe that while people are in jail or prison, they are entitled to basic human rights, which include access to a nutritious diet and access to health care services. Correctional healthcare professionals can perform routine exams such as physicals and dental screenings, in addition to responding to medical emergencies, helping people manage chronic medical conditions, and meeting with patients to address various medical concerns. They may also offer patient outreach and education, provide psychiatric evaluation and care, assist personnel with physical examinations during security checks and inmate intake, and provide other services as needed by the correctional system.
Safety is a major issue in correctional facilities. Medical treatment may be provided at an on site clinic or hospital, depending on the facility, which reduces the safety risk by ensuring that care is provided in a controlled environment, or inmates may need to be transferred to a hospital for more extensive medical care. People who work in correctional healthcare need to be comfortable with working in high stress environments, and they may be accompanied by guards or chaperons while they provide treatment, for their own safety. Medical equipment must also be carefully supervised so that inmates do not have access to dangerous tools.
Many prisons are struggling with high rates of infectious disease, as inmates with chronic conditions such as hepatitis C enter the prison system and pass their infections on to others. A big part of correctional medical services is prevention and education which is designed to control rising infection rates, including routine screening to catch infections early, and management of patients with ongoing infections to improve their quality of life. Since inmates are not allowed to maintain their own supplies of medication, correctional medical services also includes staff members who administer medication to inmates in accordance with their prescriptions.
Some prisons contract out their correctional medical services to companies which specialize in them, while others may hire their own medical staffs. Smaller facilities tend to rely on contract workers, and in a very small jail or detainment facilities, medical professionals from the surrounding community may be used instead of correctional healthcare specialists.