1. Eber, Gabriel B. JD, MPH, CCHP

Article Content

Roxanne Nelson's article, "Challenges to Health Care Delivery in U.S. Prisons" (AJN Reports, January) aptly recognizes that "nurses could make a difference" in bettering correctional health care. But she understates the matter.


Courts have increasingly recognized the critical role of nurses in caring for the more than 2 million people behind bars in the United States. In 2002, for example, a federal judge appointed an independent correctional nursing expert to help address systemic health care deficiencies in California's prisons.1 More recently, a federal court ordered a Wisconsin prison to hire nurses to administer medications instead of undertrained correctional officers.2


Similarly, professional organizations are promoting the centrality of nurses in correctional settings. In 2007, the American Nurses Association expanded Corrections Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. In 2010, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care inaugurated a certification for RNs working in correctional settings.


I'm a prisoners' rights advocate, working on the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project. Nurses are the first health care practitioners my clients meet upon arrival. It's nurses who rush to their emergencies, care for their wounds, and monitor their blood sugar. Any effort to improve correctional health care that doesn't recognize nursing's key role is doomed to fail.


Gabriel B. Eber, JD, MPH, CCHP


Washington, DC




1. Stipulation for injunctive relief, Plata v Davis. No. C-01-1351 (U.S. District Court, N.D. California June 13) 2002. [Context Link]


2. Flynn v Doyle. 630 F. Supp. 2d 987 (U.S. District Court, E.D. Wisconsin) 2009. [Context Link]