Millions of medically vulnerable and socially marginalized people cycle through the criminal justice system each year due to serious structural problems entrenched in American society. The absence of a coherent and effective social safety net means that people lack access to physical and mental health care, social services, and housing options in their communities. This report details the cultural divide among system actors that amplify and sustain these problems and offers recommendations on how law enforcement policymakers and practitioners—in collaboration with public health officials and harm reduction advocates (who use a range of strategies to reduce the harmful consequences of risky behavior, particularly drug use) —can enhance both public safety and community health.
By working with public health stakeholders, police can improve how they respond to people living with substance use and mental health needs by incorporating principles of health promotion and harm reduction into their mission, as a means to improve community health while protecting public safety.
Against the backdrop of the largest expansion of the criminal justice system in U.S. history, police officers have found themselves routinely serving as de-facto street corner psychiatrists and frontline mental health workers.
Fear of arrest and incarceration can deter people with drug addictions from seeking treatment. Untreated addictions can lead to poor health, resulting in the spread of infectious disease within a community.
Successful partnerships between police and harm reduction programs—for example the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program—show how these two groups can work together to prevent the spread of disease and the over-incarceration of vulnerable communities.
10% of all police interactions involve people with a mental illness, according to studies.
2/3 of Americans believe that government should focus on providing people who use heroin and cocaine with access to treatment rather than prosecuting them, according to a 2014 poll.
Series: Gender and Justice in America
Sexual Assault Awareness is Key to Keeping Girls Out of the Juvenile Justice System
Every April, tribute is paid to survivors of sexual violence through educational and awareness-raising events across the country. To that end, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign for 2017 seeks to shine a spotlight on leaders who can influence the cultural change needed to end sexual violen...
"Bringing Light (Re-entry)” Groundswell © 2017
A Direction Home
In Recognition of National Reentry Week
Why Kids in Detention Deserve Access to Their Siblings
But a stint in jail is arguably one of the toughest times young people can go through, which means they need all the support they can get. Even if a detention stay is short (the average time kids stay in detention is about three days), it’s still a scary and stressful experience. Being able to hug their brothers and sisters or get their advice is ...