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Health and Incarceration: A Workshop Summary

NCJ Number
Amy Smith
Date Published
67 pages
This report summarizes the presentations and discussions of a half-day workshop held on December 5, 2012, to address the challenges and opportunities for improving health and health care of incarcerated individuals.
As reported by several participants, individuals enter correctional facilities with many health problems, and incarceration conditions adversely impact inmates' health. Workshop proposals include changes for the workforce, such as retraining parole officers, educating judges, raising the skill of screeners, and hiring former inmates as community health workers. Throughout the workshop discussions, participants noted the potential for many measures to perform a threefold function: prevent incarceration; treat the health needs of inmates and their families, plan for health care after release, and prevent reoffending. Inmates with mental illness and/or alcohol and drug addiction are prevalent in jails and prisons, which heightens the need for mental health and substance abuse treatment while incarcerated. In discussions of health care options, participants noted that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an unprecedented opportunity to expand health services to criminal justice system populations. The implications of the ACA were examined in the workshop, with attention to aspects of enrollment, quality of care, costs, and equity. Many workshop participants expressed concern that the United States incarcerates too many individuals for too long, which undermines the cost effectiveness of both public safety and public health. Workshop participants included academics; practitioners; State officials; and non-governmental organization representatives from the fields of health care, prisoner advocacy, and corrections. A 12-item bibliography and appended agenda and participants list