Strengthening Families and CommunitiesExpanding Access to Health Care

Public Health

The millions of predominantly poor and minority people who cycle through our nation’s courts, jails, and prisons every year have far higher rates of chronic health problems, infectious diseases, substance use, and serious mental illness than the general population. But instead of providing treatment, our overly punitive system often exacerbates their problems, sending people home in even worse condition.

Through an initiative called Justice Reform for Healthy Communities we’re applying a public health lens to the crisis of mass incarceration. Using the tools of and health policy, education, and ethics, it promotes interdisciplinary solutions that curb incarceration and boost public health in some of the country’s poorest communities. Now is the time: the Affordable Care Act and bi-partisan support for criminal justice reform create unprecedented opportunity for innovation.

Related Work

Impact of Having an Incarcerated Parent Lasts a Lifetime—and May Shorten It, Study Says

A recent study of the impact of parental incarceration on children  in the Netherlands found that children of incarcerated parents were more likely to die prematurely in adulthood than people whose parents have not been incarcerated.    While previous studies have examined the impact of parental incarceration on younger children, little literature ...

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January 23, 2018
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Tougher Drug Law Enforcement Does Not Increase Public Safety

States That Have Eased Enforcement in Recent Years Are Moving in the Right Direction

Police also express limited support for this level of enforcement. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of police surveyed believed that marijuana use should be allowed for recreational or medical use. Eighty-four percent of the public surveyed believed that marijuana use should be allowed in cert...

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  • Jim Parsons
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January 05, 2018
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Minimizing Harm

Public Health and Justice System Responses to Drug Use and the Opioid Crisis

For the Record Evidence Brief SeriesHow government and communities should respond to drug use is a perennial question that has gained a renewed sense of urgency in the face of the current opioid overdose crisis, and annual deaths from overdose have grown more than ninefold since 1980. In addition to the thousands of lives claimed, thousands more Am...

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  • Jim Parsons, Scarlet Neath
December 13, 2017
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A Path to Recovery

Treating Opioid Use in West Virginia's Criminal Justice System

In the United States, a disproportionate number of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system suffer from opioid use disorder. Key to confronting the opioid epidemic and related deaths is expanding access to a range of treatment options, including all forms of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This report looks at how one stat...

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  • Ram Subramanian, Alison Shames
November 20, 2017
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The Enhanced Pre-Arraignment Screening Unit

Improving Health Services, Medical Triage, and Diversion Opportunities in Manhattan Central Booking

New York City established Pre-Arraignment Medical Screening Units (PASUs) in all boroughs’ central booking facilities, except Staten Island, as a result of a 1993 legal settlement requiring the city to establish a process for screening the health needs of people who are arrested, booked into police custody, and awaiting arraignment. Unfortunately, ...

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  • David Cloud, Leah Pope, Jim Parsons, Anne Siegler, Michelle Martelle
September 20, 2017
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ACA Cuts Would Endanger Justice-Involved People with Disabilities, Behavioral Health Needs

In 2010, aiming to provide affordable and comprehensive healthcare to people who otherwise would not have access to essential services, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. But in an effort to “repeal and replace” the ACA, federal lawmakers are currently considering legislation that, if enacted, will  undercut these services, negative...

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  • Ashley Brompton
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July 17, 2017
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A New Normal

Addressing Opioid Use through the Criminal Justice System

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose deaths that cuts across economic, racial, and geographic boundaries. In the midst of this devastation, people are struggling to find ways to save the lives of their community members. While the “war on drugs” created tough enforcement policies that resulted in a bloated justice system, ...

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  • Leah Pope, Chelsea Davis, David Cloud, Ayesha Delany-Brumsey
February 21, 2017
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Creating a Culture of Safety

Sentinel Event Reviews for Suicide and Self-Harm in Correctional Facilities

Since 2011, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), through its Sentinel Events Initiative, has been investigating the feasibility of using a sentinel events approach to review and learn from errors in the criminal justice system such as wrongful convictions, eyewitness misidentifications, or incidents of suicide and self-harm in custody. Recogniz...

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  • Leah Pope, Ayesha Delany-Brumsey
December 16, 2016
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