June 6, 2014—There is growing support for the idea that incarceration is not simply a matter of crime and punishment, but also an issue of public health.
In one of the first opportunities to collectively explore this perspective, leaders from more than 50 public health schools gathered for “A Public Health Approach to Incarceration: Opportunities for Action,” a two-day conference organized by the Mailman School and the Tow Foundation, which also provided financial support.
“Public health, incarceration, and justice issues are inextricably linked, in both the causes of the incarceration rate, and in the solutions we need to put together,” said Dean Linda P. Fried.
Over three million Americans are incarcerated, more than anywhere else in the world, with rates sharply up despite a decline in crime. Six million Americans are on probation or parole, and a staggering 68 million have criminal records that they may be required to report on a job application.
In the keynote address, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, observed that these statistics are the result of policy choices, particularly “to treat drug addiction as a crime issue rather than a health issue.”…
Originally posted on Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health