Online Program

Healthier lives, stronger families, and safer communities: A health impact assessment of alternatives to incarceration in Wisconsin

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 9:10 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

David Liners, Community Organizer, WISDOM, Milwaukee, WI
Kim Gilhuly, MPH, Human Impact Partners, Oakland, CA
Across the country, prisons are overcrowded with individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. Yet, many could benefit from treatment programs rather than incarceration. Recognizing this opportunity, in 2011-2012, WISDOM, a statewide congregation-based community organizing project, and the non-profit organization Human Impact Partners collaborated on a health impact assessment (HIA). The HIA assessed the health impacts of increasing funding for state treatment alternatives in Wisconsin. These alternatives included drug and alcohol treatment courts, day reporting centers, and mental health treatment courts – options based on the principle that the root of many crimes are public health issues, such as substance abuse and mental health problems. The HIA found that in Wisconsin, an increase in funding for prison alternatives to $75 million a year would likely reduce the prison population; reduce crime; improve substance abuse recovery; improve mental health; keep ex-offenders from returning to prison; and, strengthen families. Through an extensive campaign, WISDOM communicated findings to the public and decision-makers, building support for the recommendations. Several dozen news stories and multiple in-person events attended by hundreds of people spread the message of the HIA and campaign. Overall, the HIA helped to re-cast WISDOM'S incarceration campaign as one about public health. Outreach efforts around the HIA release effectively placed the campaign and its goals in the public eye, expanded the public conversation, and engaged decision-makers. In this presentation, we will discuss findings and recommendations, outcomes associated with the HIA, and lessons learned from a public health-oriented criminal justice campaign.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe how a community organization used HIA as a key component of an organizing campaign to reform the criminal justice system. Identify outcomes that Illustrate the efficacy of HIA in re-framing incarceration-related policy and community benefits of best practices in alternatives to incarceration.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As Executive Director of the faith-based advocacy group WISDOM, I bring years of experience in working within our communities to change economic, racial, social, and health disparities throughout the region. I led our organization's role as a primary partner on the Health Impact Assessment discussed in this abstract, which was part of WISDOM's broader campaign to create safer, healthier communities by decreasing the number of incarcerated people in Wisconsin and promoting alternatives to incarceration.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.