Russian prisons beset with health problems

Tuberculosis has been a plague of the Russian prisons

Health issues relating to inmates of the national penitentiaries can mirror the state of Russia's public health system to some extent. It is understood that a prison term can never give a boost to somebody's heath. Besides, convicts are part of society with its diseases commonly found outside the prison walls.

Following the reforms of the Russian correctional system, the number of inmates has been steadily declining in the last 5-7 years. 760 thousand people are currently serving sentences. But the health situation in Russia's prisons looks really appalling. Around 500 thousands convicts have serious heath problems. And the majority of them fell ill prior to being put behind bars.

Tuberculosis has been a plague of the Russian prisons until recently. Last year the situation changed for the better after extraordinary medical measures were taken by the authorities. The number of patients diagnosed with TB dropped from 100 thousand to 51 thousand. Aside from TB, convicts suffer from other grave diseases and conditions including chronic alcoholism (55 thousand), drug addiction (more than 80 thousand), HIV (more than 30 thousand patients i.e. 10% of all HIV-positive patients in Russia). Around 120 thousand inmates are diagnosed with various psychological disorders.

Speaking on the issue of HIV, Chief Sanitary Inspector of Russia pointed out that “the inmates with HIV are not a problem of the correctional system, they are a problem of society.”

As regards further steps for improving the situation in the Russian prisons, high-ranking officials of the correctional system invariably raise issues relating to supply of medicines and modern medical equipment. They might as well thank foreign NGO's for sending equipment and funds to Russia. Foreign aids help combat those socially dangerous diseases in Russia's penitentiaries. The situation can only benefit from a higher level of medical service standards once it becomes a nationwide reality.

Vladimir Loktev

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Author`s name Olga Savka