This article is from the In-Depth Report Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis in Russia

Infected and Imprisoned: Tuberculosis in a Siberian Jail [Slide Show]

The plight of inmates with TB in Russia's Tomsk Province

Merrill Goozner/© Scientific American

View the Siberian Prison TB Slide Show

Serving jail time is no picnic in itself, but many criminals in Russia's central Siberian region must deal with the added burden of sickness during their incarceration. Tomsk, in southwestern Siberia, is one oblast, or province, that suffers more than its fair share of imprisoned people who are infected with tuberculosis (TB).

Tomsk (which is also the name of the oblast's principal city) has a prison system that houses about 7,000 inmates—and about 1,000 of these convicts are patients at the prison hospital. Of that group, about 600 are being treated for TB, which is an infectious and sometimes deadly disease of the respiratory tract that can also spread to other organs.

Inmates are often at risk of catching TB from fellow jailbirds—in fact prisoners at one point made up 25 percent of all new cases in the nation. TB can often prove fatal to those who are infected while incarcerated, and almost one out of 11 TB patient-inmates died in Tomsk between 1991 and 2001. At its peak, the rate of infection reached the equivalent of 4,000 cases per 100,000 inmates. (In the U.S., the rate of TB infection during that same period was 10 in 100,000 people, and it has dropped to four per 100,000 individuals, currently.)

How does the Tomsk prison system deal nowadays with the still-pervasive cases of TB? Check out the slide show and the article reported directly from the Tomsk prison hospital in’s In-Depth Report on Tuberculosis in Siberia.

View the Siberian Prison TB Slide Show

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