Sometimes we focus more on prison abuses abroad than we do at home. The first is not more important than the second as Ira Robbins points out in the Baltimore Sun.
While the alleged human rights abuses of prisoners detained in Guantánamo Bay and the Middle East have sparked widespread criticism and debate in this country and abroad, surprisingly little attention has been focused on the treatment of citizens imprisoned within our borders. Each year, approximately 7,000 Americans die in U.S. prisons and jails. Some of these deaths are from natural causes, but many more result from mental disorders left undiagnosed and diseases left untreated.
The abhorrent quality of correctional health care not only violates prisoners' constitutional rights, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars and threatens the general health of communities surrounding these facilities. Understanding why prisoners die is an essential first step in identifying the major pitfalls of our health care system. Passing legislation to correct these problems is the crucial next step. Therefore, Congress should extend and strengthen the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act, or DICRA, before it expires at the end of this year.
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