A Public Health Perspective on Juvenile Justice System Involvement
The American Public Health Association (APHA) has adopted a policy statement we are endorsing. Research confirms that incarcerated people have a higher prevalence of acute and chronic health conditions compared to the general U.S. population, including higher prevalence of infectious diseases, mental health diagnoses and substance use disorders, traumatic brain injuries, heart-related problems, diabetes, asthma, stroke, and overall lower life expectancy. Public health issues, however, begin in marginalized communities where there are adverse determinants, such as poverty and unstable housing. We’ve shared through our issue briefs other factors we believe affect community health and the welfare of youth, including exposure to trauma click, children with incarcerated parents click, people who are undocumented click; those without stable housing click; people with disabilities; people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ+) click; people with mental illness; people who use substances click; and sex workers click. In addition, formerly incarcerated people are ten times as likely to be unhoused than the general public, and face restricted access to what the APHA refers to as “health-promoting supports including education, employment, and public housing, as a result of their criminal records”.
The APHA is urging interventions that prioritize health by focusing on public health strategies. They suggest the evidenced-based strategies of:
- Investing in communities,
- Investing in restorative and transformative justice,
- Decarcerating with no conditions of electronic monitoring or use of risk assessments, and ending continued punishment after release
- Investing in community-based mental healthcare.
We hope you will join us in reviewing the APHA policy being considered in October. You can learn more at endingpoliceviolence.com.
Click HERE to read all of our Issue Briefs.