Special Communication
July 28, 2004

Health Care Delivery in the Texas Prison SystemThe Role of Academic Medicine

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Office of Community Outreach (Dr Raimer) and Office of the President (Dr Stobo), University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

JAMA. 2004;292(4):485-489. doi:10.1001/jama.292.4.485

Faced with explosive growth in its prison population and a legal mandate to improve medical care for incarcerated offenders, the state of Texas implemented a novel correctional managed health care program in 1994. The organizational structure of the program is based on a series of contractual relationships between the state prison system, 2 of the state's academic medical centers, and a separate governing body composed of 9 appointed members, which include 5 physicians. All medical, dental, and psychiatric care for more than 145 000 offenders, incarcerated under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, is provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The health delivery system is composed of several levels of care, including primary ambulatory care clinics in each prison unit, 16 infirmaries at strategic locations throughout the state, several regional medical facilities, and a dedicated prison hospital with a full range of services. Specialized treatment programs have been established at various units for patients with chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, major psychiatric disorders, hepatitis, and human immunodeficiency virus infection. Significant improvements in health outcomes have occurred since the managed care program was established.