Incorporating mental health into discussions of criminal justice policies: Case studies of four health impact assessments
Methods: Policies addressed in the four Health Impact Assessments included: (i) funding substance abuse and mental health treatment instead of prison; (ii) reducing low-level crime sentences to misdemeanors; (iii) providing college tuition assistance for prisoners; and (iv) gang injunctions. Research questions focused on how these policies impact a series of mental health variables (stress, depression, anxiety, and suicide) in addition to determinants of mental health (i.e. income, family cohesion, access to housing, and stigma). Data sources and methods included: Literature review, qualitative data collection from impacted populations, secondary data analyses, and forecasting of future impacts of the policies on the target populations.
Findings: With the exception of gang injunctions, the policies examined were effective at reducing crime and increasing prisoners' abilities to manage addiction and mental illness, employability, and family cohesion. Gang injunctions trend in the opposite direction.
Implications: One in five Americans have a criminal record. The inclusion of mental health outcomes in criminal justice system Health Impact Assessments help us understand how policy impacts incarcerated individuals and the families and communities they live in.
Learning Areas:Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences
Discuss how four health impact assessments of criminal justice policies incorporated the topic of mental health, and the value of including mental health in the policy discussions
Keyword(s): Criminal Justice, Mental Health
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Human Impact Partners was the first organization to nationally use health impact assessment (HIA) as a tool to increase the use of health and equity in public decisions. I have an MPH from the University of California at Berkeley and have conducted or provided technical assistance for more than 40 HIAs or Health in All Policies (HiAP) projects across the country in collaboration with public health departments, advocates, community organizations, academics, planners, and others.
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.