Dr. Ken Mortisugu talk at 1998 NCRA Conference

Modern Era of Health and Wellness
Dr. Ken Mortisugu

National Correctional Recreation Association
31th Annual Conference  Oklahoma City OK
March 6, 1998

These are my notes from Dr. Mortisugu's talk.
Dr. Mortisugu is the asst. surgeon general and Medical Director of BOB.

He opened his talk, saying he would be discussing:

  1. The evolving correctional situation
  2. The mission of recreation programs
  3. Health and wellness into the next millennium
  4. The recent Surgeon General's Report
  5. How to assure your programs will not be cut by cost control efforts
The correctional environment is rapidly changing. Inmates are older than a decade ago. They are serving longer sentences, the number of females is increasing, the number of violent youth offenders are increasing.

Individuals have not had the health care that mainstream America has. Many are or will become chronic. Most inmates coming in do not have a healthy behavior.

10 years ago less than 25% had drug related charges. Now 75% have drug related charges.

Inmates are older, staying longer, sicker than the general public, lacking self esteem and lacking good health habits.

If we do nothing , they will progress to a more chronic situation (high blood pressure, strokes, emphysema).

Resources are not freely flowing. They are scarcer and more restrictions are attached to them.

We need to remember they were incarcerated as punishment not for punishment.

Bodybuilding, and free weights are prohibited in the federal system by law.

We must do more, for more, with less.

We have a responsibility to our clients to improve their self esteem through sports and recreation.

Health and wellness can make a difference for the individual. Food Services (good nutrition), safety and environmental health, psychology and chaplin services, corrections and custody (develop appreciation for the rules), education, recreation (physical, emotional, intellectual).

There have been two recent major events on health.

  1. Mid February, Dr. David Satcher was named Surgeon General. He personally believes in exercise.
  2. Last year, CDC and President's Council released Surgeon General's report on health. It enhances the scientific evidence supporting fitness and establishes physical activity as a public challenge.

These two events have some synergy that can be used by corrections.

You do not want correctional recreation to be lost in a cost cutting measure. Currently their are 1.5 million incarcerated. There is a significant increase in the number participating in the BOP wellness program.

More needs to be learned about how individuals are able to change activity levels.

Increasing physical activity is a formidable public health challenge.

There is a critical role for the recreations in corrections. Occupying time and decreasing idleness are major contributions. It has long been recognized for its health contribution. Recreation should not exist in a vacuum. It should be integrated with health care, food services, nutrition, psychology, chaplin services, corrections and custody, and education.

The get tough on crime movement has attacked correctional luxuries. The public does not want to provide luxuries to those in prison. Recreation programs are in danger of reduction or removal.

We need to continue the programs by building bridges. Package the recreation programs with the value added concept. The contribution of the program toward long term cost containment is an example. There is now public health policy support.

People are our most important resource.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for the difference you make with the individuals, in the institutions, and in society.

Questions and Answers

  1. How can we obtain the 1996 Surgeon General's report on Physical Activity and Health"?
    The report can be ordered from the Superintendent of Documents.
    Strength Tech note - The Executive Summary is online in a recently updated version. Information on how to order a hard copy is also provided there.

  2. How can we best piggy back on these recent events?
    The new Surgeon General is a friend of corrections. He was a keynote speaker at the last ACA meeting in Nashville. The NCRA meetings help strengthen our numbers.

  3. In your talk, you mentioned the federal prisons no longer lift free weights? You are aware several institutions still lift?
    Yes I know many sites still lift, the weights are being removed by attrition when they break.

  4. What is your personal opinion on the Zimmer bill?
    It is a law, we have the responsibility of following through on it. When we look at violent activity, it does not seem to occur at the weight pile. It creates constraints. We can live with it. We have to stop thinking within the box.

    We are looking at a major restructuring in health services. We (BOP) are among the top 10 most expensive systems in the country. Privatization is increasing. We need to be thinking outside the box.

  5. What about the outcome?
    Wellness takes years to measure results. It is not so much the disease you see, but the disease you do not see. They studied inmate mortality (deaths) for 1993 and compared the data to the general U.S. population. There were less deaths per thousand in every category in federal prison. A major contributor is the almost total absence of accidental deaths from automobile accidents, motor cycle accidents, and shootings. He jokingly added, "If you want to live longer, commit a federal crime."

    Some inmates are getting into competitions about how many times they can walk around the track, or walking around the track faster.

    Science has shown that smoking is bad for men and women. Second hand smoke also causes health risks. Cigarettes have been removed from several state prisons. He anticipates severely limiting cigarettes at the BOP soon. In Texas they can not smoke anywhere on the grounds. Minnesota, Los Angeles County, and Indiana are other places trying it. Someone in the audience mentioned Indiana had not had problems with the inmates (the staff had grumbled). He expects it to be implemented within the year at the federal level. Smoking areas might be provided.


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