Correctional Nurse

Welcome to 

A website dedicated to making visible the often-invisible specialty of correctional nursing.

This site is here to help nurses working in the criminal justice system – jails, prisons, juvenile detention centers – as well as those working in traditional healthcare settings that include prisoners as patients. 

Nurses in traditional settings like hospitals may have contact with prisoners through the emergency room, short stay unit, labor and delivery, or just as a med/surg patient. There can many apprehensions and misconceptions about the inmate patient population.

The inmate patient population has many distinct characteristics to keep in mind when providing care. Although each patient is an individual, the population, as a whole, is likely to have these characteristics that should be taken into consideration when providing care.

  • Inmates have a biological age older than their chronological ages. Many experts consider the incarcerated patient to be 10 years older than their chronologic age when it comes to the ravages of age and illness. So, many correctional settings consider elderly inmates to be 55 years and older.
  • Less educated and less health-literate than the general population, inmates are more likely to have learning disabilities and have difficulty understanding basic health information.
  • More infectious disease, especially HIV, Hepatitis C, sexually transmitted disease, and tuberculosis are found in this patient population
  • Inmates have higher rates of mental illness than the general public, especially depression, mania, and psychotic disorders. Mental illness can contribute to criminality. Borderline personality disorders that lead to poor impulse control, self-injury, and aggression are often present.
  • This patient population also has higher rates of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder that can also lead to poor impulse control, erratic behavior, and inability to concentrate or understand health instruction.
  • High levels of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in this population increases the likelihood of withdrawal issues, liver toxicity, and respiratory conditions.
  • Increased risk of suicide is found in this patient population as compared to the general population.

Learn more about caring for criminal-justice involved patients in the pages of this website.

Hi, my name is Lorry Schoenly. Like many nurses practicing in the criminal justice system, I came across the specialty by accident. I discovered the invisible world of correctional nursing when I answered an online advertisement for a nurse educator for the New Jersey Prison System. My first reaction was – “There are nurses in prison? Who knew?” It only took a few seconds to realize that of course there would be need for nurses behind bars. Prisoners have health needs and get sick just like the rest of us. I started in correctional nursing in 2005 and found my niche. Whether you are an ‘accidental’ correctional nurse or chose the specialty, I am grateful for your interest in caring for our disadvantaged and often unlovable patients. I hope you find encouragement and information in the pages of this website.


Below are a few curated topics to get you started. 

You can also use the search bar at the top right to type in a particular topic of concern.

Can’t find what you are looking for?

Contact me at and I’ll see if I can help you out.

Correctional Nurse Newbie Guide
Correctional Nurse Caring
Correctional Nurse: Inmates as patients
Correctional Nurse Safety
Correctional Nurse Clinical Issues

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