An estimated 10 million people are incarcerated internationally, including 2.1 million people in the United States. Criminal justice involvement is a social determinant of individual and family health disparities. Health care in correctional and forensic psychiatric facilities is nurse driven. The unique contributions of nurse authors to the research literature on health equity and humane conditions for this population have not been aggregated, nor have the nursing research gaps in this area been systematically identified. This article determines the volume and country location of nurse-authored research in this area and analyzes the research by population (prisons, jails, community supervision, forensic psychiatry), clinical foci, and research methods.
We conducted an integrative review of research literature published in English between 1990 and 2017.
Our search revealed 283 data-based articles written by 349 nurse authors, representing Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South Americas. Most research occurred in prisons (53.3%) and focused on mental health/substance use (32.5%), infectious disease (21.6%), or correctional health services (15.6%). Almost one third of articles across clinical foci sampled nurses, not patients.
Although there is clearly a cadre of nurse researchers working in this area, it remains a relatively small group focused most closely on mental health, infectious disease, and the correctional nursing experience. Gaps and opportunities for important nursing contributions remain, especially in reproductive health, meeting the needs of community-supervised people, and explicitly connecting this work with its human rights implications.