ACHIEVING RACIAL EQUITY IN HEALTH CARE & CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM   

 

A story like so many others...

A man and his friends walk down a street after a meeting of their addiction recovery support group when several police officers stop them and ask for identification. 

LACaqua.jpg
 
 

The man has left his wallet at home...

 
 

...the meeting is just a block from his apartment. But the officers take him to the station.

Once there, the police find the man has an open warrant; he has yet to pay a $25 summons for being in the park after hours. At arraignment, the judge sets bail at $2,500, which the man cannot pay, so he is held in jail for several days. While incarcerated, he misses work and is denied the medication-assisted treatment he takes for his opioid addiction. He is desperate to get out of jail, so he pays the original ticket after three days in jail and pleads guilty to a new misdemeanor offense. He receives a three-year sentence of probation. Without access to his medication, he is experiencing withdrawal symptoms as he makes his way home. To make matters worse, when he listens to the messages that he missed on his cellphone, the man learns he has been fired. With no job, no insurance, a recent criminal record and his recovery in jeopardy - what is likely to happen next? 

 
 

It’s very likely this man’s situation will only worsen...

From homelessness to re-arrest to overdose, what happens next to this man, especially if he is Black or Brown and/or poor, will be the result of the last three decades of unjust public policy. Millions of Americans are suffering today because of this era that slammed shut doors to opportunity and healing while opening them wide to increased surveillance, violent policing, and overcrowded jails and prisons. These policies have skewed priorities, weakened communities through criminalization, and hobbled vital public institutions such a health care and education, contributing to persistent economic and social instability. Community reentry from incarceration still saddled with these policies perpetuates a malicious cycle of deprivation and hardship that has led the nation to an epidemic of mass incarceration and poor health outcomes like none other in the developed world.

 

From Mass Incarceration to Public Health: 21st Century Civil Rights

 

The Legal Action Center’s No Health = No Justice Campaign is a Multistate Plan envisioning a system of mass decarceration where health care is provided to all and people are no longer criminalized for conditions related to their health.

A cross-sector approach focused on change

While many initiatives are now underway to reform our criminal justice system, we cannot hope to reverse course without a cross-sector approach that recognizes the relationship between systemic racism, mass incarceration and inadequate community health care systems. We cannot hope to reverse the chronic health issues--including the current opioid epidemic-that tax the nation’s spirit and budget without heeding the voices of communities whom our criminal justice and health policies have jointly and systematically harmed. 

 
LAC orange.jpg