Online Program

A Public Health Approach to Incarceration: Opportunities for Action

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lisa Metsch, PhD, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY
Amanda Geller, PhD, Department of Sociology, New York University, New York, NY
Chelsea Davis, MPH, Substance Use and Mental Health Program, Vera Institute of Justice, New York, NY
Yasmin Davis, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY
Yves Jeanty, PhD, MPH, Social Intervention Group, School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York, NY
Robert Fullilove, EdD, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY
Alwyn T. Cohall, MD, Harlem Health Promotion Center, Columbia University, New York, NY
Linda Fried, Department of Epidemiology and Medicine, Columbia University, New York, NY
The rapid expansion of the criminal justice system from the 1970s through the early 2000s, commonly known as “mass incarceration,” has had broad effects on health, not only for those incarcerated but also for their families and communities. As the science of prevention and promotion, public health is well-positioned to mitigate risks and promote ways to protect against criminal justice involvement and incarceration.  In June 2014, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health convened a conference of 45 Deans of schools/programs throughout the U.S. to identify opportunities to integrate incarceration and public safety issues into the fabric of curricula, research, and practice.  Within three months post-conference, participants were surveyed regarding their respective plans for bringing the issue of incarceration to the forefront of the public health agenda.  Among the 42 (93%) of institutions responding, nearly 40% indicated they intended to increase educational offerings in the next six months on the issue of incarceration and public health.  Over half (55%) plan to add new content to existing courses.  Notably, 63% indicated intent to increase research efforts on this issue.  Reported planned partners included local CBOs, prisons/jails and other academic departments. Emergent recommendations include that schools/programs of public health should take a leadership role in changing the narrative about incarceration and should develop meaningful collaborations with local prisons, jails, and CBOs. Schools/programs of public health are well positioned to catalyze the change in perception, the public health agenda and policies regarding incarceration for current and future cadres of public health practitioners.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify the links between incarceration and the increased disease burden among both incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated individuals and their respective communities, requiring a public health approach. Leverage the multidisciplinary lens of public health to focus on collaborating with community-based and criminal justice partners to implement multidisciplinary prevention and intervention programs. Understand how schools and programs in public health can become social change agents to address incarceration issues through curriculum, collaborative community research and advocacy.

Keyword(s): Prisoners Health, Public Health Curricula & Competencies

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal investigator of multiple federally funded grants investigating prevention of HIV among populations with substance abuse problems. My work focuses on developing innovative strategies to increase the uptake of testing, linkage, retention, and re-engagement in care among vulnerable populations including incarcerated populations. My recent research findings helped to shape national policy and intervention programs. I am currently the Co-Director of the Mailman School Initiative on Mass Incarceration and Public Health.
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.