Strengthening Families and Communities

Expanding Access to Health Care

Health problems—from diabetes, to hepatitis C, to drug abuse and mental illness—are much more common among people involved in the criminal justice system. Limited access to health care in their communities is too often the reason they end up in a police car or jail cell. And when the system doesn’t open a door to treatment, their health further deteriorates.

Applying a public health lens to the crisis of mass incarceration can change this dynamic by raising awareness and promoting solutions to both curb incarceration and improve public health in poor communities. Pioneering data sharing across criminal justice and health care systems can break cycles of arrest and incarceration and change peoples’ lives. Work with public defenders can improve legal representation and outcomes for defendants who are mentally ill, and partnerships with officials who oversee jails can prevent suicide and other types of self-harm.

Related Work

Changing Course in the Overdose Crisis

Moving from Punishment to Harm Reduction and Health

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and communities across the country are struggling to respond. But the punitive approach exemplified by the “war on drugs” has driven mass incarceration, exacerbated racial disparities within the criminal justice system, and devastated communities of color. The United State ...

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  • Jason Tan de Bibiana, Charlotte Miller, Leah Pope, Susan Stellin, Jim Parsons, David Cloud
February 21, 2020
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Sharing Behavioral Health Information across Justice and Health Systems

Opportunities in the District of Columbia

People with mental health and substance use problems are overrepresented at all stages of the criminal justice system in the United States. However, decision makers, health care providers, and staff often work with only a fraction of the behavioral health information that exists about their clients. Expanding the availability of behavioral health d ...

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  • Marilyn Sinkewicz, Yu-Fen Chiu, Leah Pope
December 07, 2018
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