Healthcare in prison is important for a variety of reasons. Being isolated from society, prisoners are practically deprived of the health services they used to benefit from before their imprisonment. At the same time, studies show that the rates of communicable diseases in prison are much higher than in the free society. Poor living conditions and overcrowding, typical for many prisons, also contribute to this situation. Healthcare in prisons is also closely linked to public health in general. As noted by the WHO, prison populations usually contain a high prevalence of people with serious and often life-threatening conditions who will return to the community, carrying back with them new diseases and untreated conditions that may pose a threat to community health. The spread of infectious diseases is a threat to the health of not only the prisoners and the staff but also to the community at large. Therefore, when a state deprives people of their liberty, it takes on the responsibility to look after their health so that prisoners do not leave prison in a worse condition than when they entered.
KPS’ Directorate of Medical services is responsible for providing health care services to approximately 58,000 inmates housed in 118 correctional facilities across Kenya. This includes emergency and urgent care and care needed to prevent further deterioration of an inmate’s condition. In 2017, KNCHR undertook a monitoring exercise in 75 prisons to evaluate the adequacy of the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) medical services and the effectiveness of its medical service’s quality assurance program. This was against a backdrop of the nationwide doctors strike vis-à-vis the vulnerable position that inmates already find themselves. During the survey, it was noted that in most correctional facilities, only basic care is provided. Inmates who require more intensive care or suffer from chronic conditions are either treated at various Government health centers or specific private hospitals if need be.