In the United States, the number of prisoners has been rapidly growing for decades and, today, the U.S. has the largest incarcerated population in the world, with no other country even approaching its numbers. Essentials of Correctional Nursing, edited by Lorry Schoenly and Catherine M. Knox and just published by Springer Publishing Company, is the first foundational book for nurses providing health care in the criminal justice system and reflects the growing needs of this expanding population.
Correctional nursing, a field which has only existed for about the last 30 years, has been propelled by this growth. Thirty-two years ago, in 1980, there were half a million people behind bars in the U.S. Now, this number has more than quadrupled to upwards of 2,000,000 (one out of every 100 people). Other prison trends have emerged with this proliferation, such as growing subgroups of the elderly, minorities, women, veterans, and the largest group of mentally ill individuals in the country (more than all U.S. psychiatric facilities combined). Changing prison demographics, the growing prison population, and the recent development of correctional nursing certification make this book a particularly valuable and timely contribution to this burgeoning health care specialty.
Dr. Schoenly, who has over 25 years of experience in nursing, health care education, and management, believes that the particularities of the correctional setting demand customized resources. “Distinct challenges regarding the nature of the prison population, its unique health needs, and the setting’s potential to provoke ethical and care-oriented dilemmas distinguish correctional nursing from other nursing fields,” she explains.
Essentials of Correctional Nursing addresses care issues for prison’s subpopulations and offers best practice guidelines on delivering care to a community disproportionately affected by mental illness, alcohol and drug dependence, victimization, traumatic injury, and chronic and infectious disease. Some prison health statistics are particularly staggering. For example, 85% of inmates are alcohol or drug-involved, over 60% have traumatic brain injury (as opposed to 2% in the general population), and over 50% suffer from mental illnesses (as opposed to 11% in the general population). The authors recognize the significance of these statistics, saying, “This book supports correctional nurses, the backbone of correctional health care, by providing guidance on delivering nursing care that reduces suffering and improves the quality of life for this disenfranchised population.”