Provisions of the Affordable Care Act offer new opportunities to apply a public health and medical perspective to the complex relationship between involvement in the criminal justice system and the existence of fundamental health disparities.
Incarceration can cause harm to individual and community health, but prisons and jails also hold enormous potential to play an active and beneficial role in the health care system and, ultimately, to improving health. Traditionally, incarcerated populations have been incorrectly viewed as isolated and self-contained communities with only peripheral importance to the public health at large. This misconception has resulted in missed opportunities to positively affect the health of both the individuals and the imprisoned community as a whole, and potentially to mitigate risk behaviors that may contribute to incarceration. Both community and correctional health care professionals can capitalize on these opportunities by working together to advocate for the health of the criminal justice–involved population and their communities.
The researchers present a set of recommendations for the improvement of both correctional health care, such as improving systems of external oversight and quality management, and access to community-based care, including establishing strategies for postrelease care and medical record transfers.