The "double burden": a qualitative study about unhealthy prisoners in Italy
Human and Social Sciences University of Cassino Cassino (Fr), Italy
Background: Several international studies, confirmed in Italy too, show a hard presence of communicable diseases inside the prisons and the jails. This paper deals in particular with the ?living? and impact of imprisonment on the health of prisoners with Hcv, Hiv virus and with acclaimed Aids.
Methods: Qualitative study involving adult male prisoners in three Italian prisons (Secondigliano-Napoli, Rebibbia-Roma, Dozza-Bologna). 60 individual semi-structured interviews were conducted.
Results: Life in the prison for persons with serious communicable disease is conducted inside a sort of ?double burden?, given by a limitation of liberty connected to a limitation of wholesome aspects of life. Illness and sickness inside the prison seem to imply above all: fatalism toward the future, a deep sense of guilt, a clear fear, a feeling of alienation and self-marginalization. Donald Clemmer defined ?prisonization? as the taking on in greater or lesser degree of the folkways, mores, customs, and general culture of the penitentiary; in this sense, it seems that disease in this context is no more a specific fact, but ?disease in the prison? exists as a sui generis fact.
Conclusion: This paper has the main aim to give voice to persons who often have none, despite the right to health is sanctioned as a fundamental right by the Italian Constitution, as stated in Article 32 Clause 1: ?The Republic safeguards health as a fundamental right of the individual in the interests of the public and guarantees free medical treatment to the needy"; this is the only section where the word "individual" - and not "citizen" - is used, suggesting treatment should be as general, equal and integrated as possible. The health of prisoners is not only a specific problem of the inmates but regards all the society: problems linked with the social cost in the health system of prisons cannot - and must not - be contained inside the world of confinement, but concern the wider context of public expense and social/cultural environment, as well as the model of treatment of the National Health Service in its entirety.