This article explored the health threats for correctional institutions from transnational crime and presented findings from an online focus group that discussed how foreign nationals impact health.
Transnational crime has become the norm in the 21st century. Among the 18 categories of transnational crime, transporting humans illegally across national boundaries has increased at alarming rates. The Department of State estimated in 1999 that 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually to the United States as sex workers. Offenders and victims of trafficking across national boundaries bring a variety of health problems, including contagious diseases. This has major consequences for corrections officials. In an attempt to confirm the suspicion that transnational crime impacts public and correctional health, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently partnered with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct an experiment. NIJ convened an online focus group to discuss foreign national health concerns. Some of the general responses during the focus group underscored predictable factors. Participants indicated that the U.S. location of infected foreign nationals and illegal aliens usually related to their point of entry into the country. Mexicans, for example, tend to enter through and reside in Arizona, California and Texas. Participants agreed that TB is the most common infectious disease found in transnationals or illegal aliens. Participants also identified a wide range of other health problems prevalent among foreign nationals, including hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, STDs, diabetes, hypertension, mental illnesses, and drug and alcohol abuse. Ramifications of transnational crime are not limited to public health. As immigrant involvement in criminal activity increases, the possibility that these offenders will bring health concerns into correctional facilities has multiplied. Participants in the online focus group agreed that foreign nationals bring a variety of health problems into correctional institutions. The results of the online focus group support the conclusion that the type of transnational crime that moves people across national boundaries impacts public correctional health. Health problems that foreign nationals bring to the correctional system are an area of emerging concern that requires additional study.