The concentration of incarcerated individuals with mental health and physical problems in the United States has led to the labeling of jails and prisons as the “hospitals of last resort” for those unable to access healthcare services in the community. As funding for community behavioral health services has dwindled, the number of people with serious psychiatric conditions in the nation’s correctional facilities has grown.
Jails have often been compared to islands because they are thought to be cut off from the community both physically and perceptually. Few people understand that besides being places of confinement, jails function as health care providers. The separation of jails from community results in disjointed health care services and treatment for individuals cycling in and out of jail. Healthcare providers in the community have little knowledge of the care their patients have received in jail; the same can be said of jail health providers about care provided in the community.