This paper reviews findings on health disparities among people involved in the criminal justice system, and then underscores the need for more research examining the relationship between the criminal justice system and racial/ethnic health disparities.
For example, more research is needed to better understand how experiences in the criminal justice system directly or indirectly impact health outcomes and the delivery of services. The authors present different theoretical models for studying the relationship between criminal justice involvement and health disparities. They then discuss the various opportunities in the criminal justice system to implement public health interventions to mitigate poor health outcomes. The paper also highlights the need to improve collection of health statistics for people in jails and prisons. Currently, incarcerated populations are excluded from large national health surveys, which suggests that epidemiological data underestimate figures on health outcomes among populations over-represented in the criminal justice system. Binswanger et al. stress the need for better data systems to enable a more accurate view of the health of correctional populations, and suggest that policies aiming to reduce health disparities should incorporate incarcerated people to be most effective.