Inmates are often predisposed to various diseases while at the correctional facilities. Some of them may possess chronic diseases even before they get arrested and confined in the correctional facilities. These individuals need medical attention while further investigations are made on their cases, or when serving a jail term. This is the role of forensic or correctional nurses.
Correctional or forensic nursing deals with the provision of medical healthcare services to individuals incarcerated within the criminal justice system in facilities such as jails, prisons or juvenile detention centers. This branch or nursing arose due to the need of maintaining high medical standards in correctional facilities so as to prevent spread of communicable diseases and to ensure the inmates health conditions are attended to (Hammer & Moynihan, 2011). It is a relatively new field of nursing and has not yet developed in to a full discipline of specialization. Forensic nurses do not need to have specific certification detailing their specialization in this field. The International Association for Forensic Nurses however offers two certification courses for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner- Adolescent/Adult (SANE-A) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner- Pediatric (SANE P) (Hammer & Moynihan, 2011).
The community of inmates has their own rights and obligations too, among them the right to proper medical care. Jails experience a high imamate turnover from time to time since they do not hold inmates for long.
Jails only hold inmates who have not yet been tried for their offenses or those whose jail terms do not exceed two years. Jails are managed by cities and counties in which they are located. The high turnover rate of inmates in jails may pose a bit of a challenge in provision of medical health care. Most inmates in jails are often taken from their free environments to confined centers. These people often find it hard to settle and may show signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug and substance abuse withdrawal, suicide tendencies, trauma, as well as infectious diseases.
The national statistics of the inmates in the US correctional facilities is very alarming (Eric and Raymond, 2009). The prison population in the US is now more than four times what it was twenty five years ago. This makes the nation the highest country incarcerating more people per capita. About 2.3 million prisoners rely on the prison structures for their medication. About 70% of all inmates possess one or two mental disorders including psychiatric morbidity. The suicide rate in prisons is estimated to be about 15 times higher than that of the general population. In 2002, the rate was at 143 people committing suicide per 100000 people in prisons as compared to 9 per 100000 in the general population. Inmates are also affected by other medical problems such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, arthritis among others (Eric and Raymond, 2009).
Forensic nursing has various ethical implications. Forensic nursing has a very wide scope of ethics. Forensic nurses are expected to observe and respect their client’s confidentiality, their obligations to the field of science as well as their dedication to their colleagues in the line of duty (Eric and Raymond, 2009). First and foremost, forensic nurses are required to operate within the framework of the codes of ethic outlined by the International Association for Forensic Nurses.
The population of the US comprises of ethnic, age, sexual and cultural diversity, all of which have had a huge impact on the practice of nursing as a whole. A lack of cultural awareness or sensitivity as well as the lack of cultural competence has adverse effects on the health and general well being of the whole society as a whole. Inmates in the correctional facilities come from different backgrounds in terms of their ethnicity, race, age and religion among other differentiating issues. A proper understanding of the diverse culture in the correctional facilities can be a major step ahead in the provision of forensic nursing healthcare services. Cultural issues that affect treatment of inmates include issues such as interpersonal violence, intergenerational conflicts as well as expressions from different cultures.
Forensic nursing plays an important role in administration of justice. Forensic nurses collect information about the health of the inmates, which can be relied upon during investigations of various crimes involving the suspects. Forensic nurses also help in counseling of inmates in a bid to help them become more reformed individuals after serving their jail terms (Eric and Raymond, 2009).
Forensic nurses play a very important role in the criminal justice system. There basic roles include intake screening, chronic care and medication administration. Intake screening is done to new convicts so as to identify the medical state. Such information can be used in housing placement in the jail as well as scheduling for any medical assistance that the inmates may need. Chronic medical care involves scheduling medical attention for prisoners with chronic medical problems as well as pregnancies. Medical administration involves managing doses for individual inmates by the forensic nurses. If left alone, the inmates can abuse the drugs given to them, it is therefore important to have forensic nurses at their aid.
- Eric A. and Raymond R. C (2009). The ethics of forensic nursing. Thousand Oaks, California:
Hammer, R. M & Moynihan, B. (2011). Forensic Nursing: A handbook for Practice. Burlington,
MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.