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Int J Prison Health. 2018 Sep 10;14(3):197-209. doi: 10.1108/IJPH-02-2017-0010.

Prisoner health status at three rural Haitian prisons.

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Yale School of Medicine, Yale University , New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Yale School of Public Health, Yale University , New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Health Through Walls, North Miami, Florida, USA.
Heartland Health Outreach, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Purpose Little is known about the health status of prisoners in low-income countries. In Haiti, prisons typically lack adequate medical care, clean water and food, though some prisoners receive additional food from visitors. The purpose of this paper is to characterize the physical and mental health of Haitian prisoners in three select prisons and examine the effects of having visitors and length of detention on health status. The authors hypothesized that prisoners with more visitors and shorter detention times would have better overall health status. Design/methodology/approach The authors conducted a cross-sectional study of 290 male inmates in three regional prisons in Haiti. Data were collected on prisoners' sociodemographic characteristics, number of visitors, length of detention, body mass index (BMI), self-reported physical and mental health status, and food insecurity. Findings Overall, prisoners at all three prisons had poor health outcomes. Prisoners with more visitors were significantly less likely to be underweight and more likely to have a higher BMI, better self-reported physical function and lower levels of food insecurity. The length of incarceration was negatively associated with physical function and self-rated health, but positively associated with BMI. These results suggest that prisoners who do not receive supplemental food from visitors are at increased risk for food insecurity and poor nutritional and physical health status. Originality/value These findings demonstrate the importance of supplemental food from visitors in stabilizing prisoner health in Haiti and emphasize the need for the provision of adequate nutrition to all prisoners. This study also suggests that policies that reduce incarceration times could improve health status among prisoners.


Food insecurity; Haiti; Health in prison; Malnourishment; Overcrowding; Prisoners


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