Health Care for Prisoners in Haiti

Delivery of health care to prisoners who have high rates of psychiatric problems, substance abuse and chronic conditions is more complex than to the general population. Delivery of health care to prisoners in a resource-poor country such as Haiti is even more challenging.

The Prison Civile of Port au Prince, the largest in Haiti occupies a full city block. Built to hold 800 prisoners, it held 4,215 prior to the country’s January 2010 earthquake. Hunger, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases were prevalent, sometimes leading to death of previously healthy young men. A physician was present only intermittently and dying inmates were not provided medical support.

In 2008, with the help of international aid organizations, Les Centres GHESKIO (Haiti) and Health through Walls (Florida) worked to improve prison health care. By the time of the 2010 earthquake, more than 2,000 prisoners had received comprehensive physical assessments, 400 were screened for HIV and 250 for tuberculosis; 86 newly identified as having HIV and 50 with tuberculosis had begun receiving care. The prison was to serve as a model for other Haitian prisons.

The earthquake interrupted progress. Now Haiti’s recovery and healing must include tending to the health and justice of prisoners.