Stop playing ‘pass the parcel’ with prisoners’ health

Press Release – Rethinking Crime and Punishment

Government has got to stop playing “pass the parcel” with prisoners’ health, said Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, and a former Deputy Director General (Maori Health) in the Ministry of Health.Stop playing ‘pass the parcel’ with prisoners’ health

Government has got to stop playing “pass the parcel” with prisoners’ health, said Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, and a former Deputy Director General (Maori Health) in the Ministry of Health. He was commenting on today’s release of a report by the Ombudsman on prisoners’ health, which recommended that taxpayers would get better value and prisoners a better level of healthcare if prison health services were delivered by a health agency rather than the Department of Corrections.

“Exactly the same recommendation came from the ‘Health in Justice’ report by the National Health Committee, which was released nineteen months ago. That report sunk from view, and numerous official information requests have been able to re-float it.”

“Over the last decade, Corrections have tried on three or four occasions to get an external health service to take responsibility for prisoner health. Each time they have passed the parcel, the health sector has opened the parcel, realised that the available money would deliver an inferior service, quickly re-tied it, and returned it to the sender.”

“There would be considerable savings if prisoner health care was adequately resourced, given that 70% of all prisoners will be out within seven months. Neglect of prisoner health in the short term, results in increased health cost to community health agencies once a prisoner is released. The genesis of poor prisoner health is complex, but it is usually connected to the health of the prisoners’ communities of origin. There is an opportunity, with the provision of community based healthcare, to link back into those marginalised communities, and to deal more effectively with the health needs of impoverished whanau and families.”

When New South Wales Corrections handed its health services over to an external health agency some years ago, there was a significant improvement in the standard of health care, and a much more flexible deployment of health funding based on need. Healthy prisoners are more likely to respond to rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, so it was a win-win solution all around.

“The Department of Corrections is not in the core business of providing proactive health services to prisoners. Adequate resources should now be allocated to an external health provider.”

ENDS

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