Nursing in the Community: Correctional Nursing

Jail House Nurse: Correctional Nursing

National statistic show that violent crime decreased from 2011 to 2015, down to about 5 million. Yes, 5 million, this is still staggering and heart-breaking fact or life in America. These crimes include robbery, assault, rape, and murder. A forensic nurse may work in many different environments including nursing homes, home health settings, hospital ERs and correctional settings. As such a subset of forensic nursing is the correctional nurse. Correctional nursing provide care to inmates be they teens, men, or women. More often than not, these people have mental health problems that have not been addressed. Correctional nurses working in a juvenile detention centers and prisons. Correctional nurse is underestimated a lot of the time, but they are highly skilled, and they must be vigilant and always have an exit plan in a high-risk work environment. Regardless of reason a person is in the correctional system they have the same rights to available healthcare and safety as any free person.

Community Setting

Correctional nursing takes a distinct type of nurse, working in a jail requires continued awareness for safety of their self and the inmates. This includes safeguarding equipment and supplies, as they are turned into crude weapons and drugs to be sold on the jail underground marketplace. Correctional nurses work in juvenile confinement facilities, jails and prisons serving adolescents, men, and women. Adolescents are at the highest risk with many being tried as adults, leading to high suicide rates. It is essential that inmates are screened when entering the any correctional place in order to note any and all communicable/chronic diseases. Screening for diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, & TB are a priority because there are higher rates of infections because overcrowding and high turnover of inmates. (Nies & McEwen, 2019) During these screenings many chronic conditions are being treated for the first time in these peoples lives.

Health Promotion Nursing Intervention

The nurse in a correctional setting is in a critical position to advocate for the inmates as they often see the inmate more than other healthcare professional. Even if they are not major swiping changes nurses have the chance to bring positive change to each inmate. For most inmates it is during the health assessment that they are diagnosed and received information about their health risks and preventative care for the first time.

Nurses assess risky behavior, promote healthy behaviors, and teach clients in all settings and is still true in a correctional setting. The provisioning of harm reduction continues to be extremely limited in prison settings, where large portions of the population are people who use and inject drugs. “Numerous studies have found that harm reduction can be safely and effectively implemented in prison settings with evidence of reduced drug injection, needle and syringe sharing, HIV and HCV transmission, and risk of overdose among other positive outcomes.” (Sander, Shirley-Beavan, & Stone, 2019) The delivery of quality and accessible harm reduction should not a just a policy option but a legal human right and a serious public health measure.

Ever states Department of Corrections, D.O.C., have programs that provide alcohol and drug counseling, education and informational classes, volunteers from churches conducting bible studies and services, literacy classes, and even short-term housing and employment programs for after incarceration.

Professional Nursing Organization

National Commission on Correctional Health Care is one of the very few organizations devoted exclusively to the improvement health care in jails, prisons, and juvenile confinement facilities. Many recognized national organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association, American Medical Association, and Academy of Correctional Health Professionals, all support the NCCHC.

The NCCHC was founded in the 1970’s after the American Medical Association specified that the many jails had inadequate, disorganized health services, and a lack of national standard of care (NCCHC, 2019). It supports correctional facilities in developing policies and procedures for managing chronic pain and violence prevention. The NCCHC provides continuing education for nurses, social workers, and physicians, and certifications. One of the best things they have done is that NCCHC and the National Sheriffs’ Association have released a Medication-Assisted Treatment guide to providing evidence-based treatment for inmates with opioid abuse issues.


As a subset of forensic nursing, correctional nurses served are adolescents, men, women, and often with mental health issues, whom are in jail, prison, or detention centers. They must always be on guard with inmates. Keeping medical supplies and equipment secured at all times is a priority. Misplaced trust or loss of supplies can greatly impact safety of the nurse, inmates and faculty. Every inmate receives a health screening at intake, frequently revealing underlying chronic or communicable diseases. No matter the crimes an inmate has committed, the nurse must always maintain unprejudiced, respectful, and provide care and compassion.


  • National Commission on Correctional Health Care, NCCHC. (2019). Retrieved from
  • Nies, M. A., & McEwen, M. (2019). Community/Public health nursing: Promoting the health of populations (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Saunders/Elsevier.
  • Sander, G., Shirley-Beavan, S., & Stone, K. (2019). The Global State of Harm Reduction in Prisons. Journal of Correctional Health Care,25(2), 105-120. doi:10.1177/1078345819837909