Incarceration as a Public Health Issue

June 6, 2014—Support is growing for the idea that incarceration is not simply a matter of crime and punishment, but also one of public health.

Leaders from more than 50 public health schools gathered at Columbia on June 3–4, for “A Public Health Approach to Incarceration: Opportunities for Action,” a conference

organized by the Mailman School and the Tow Foundation, which also provided financial support.

More than 3 million Americans are incarcerated, more than anywhere else in the world. Six million are on probation or parole, and a staggering 68 million have criminal records that they may be required to report on job applications.

Topics covered at the conference included the war on drugs, health consequences of welfare reform of the 1990s, the increase in juveniles tried as adults, and the neglect of prisoners’ health.

At the conclusion of the conference, attendees agreed on a draft statement of purpose that resolves “to work collectively to introduce incarceration in our curricula and research, to raise awareness and concern, and to inspire and support our fellow scholars.”

Read more about the conference and watch a video at the Mailman School website.