COVID-19: Risks for Detained and Incarcerated Youth

Open Letter: COVID-19 Risks for Detained and Incarcerated Youth

In a collaboration with the National Juvenile Defender Center, PfCJR has offered our support and recommendations for detained and incarcerated youth facing the new risks posed by COVID-19.

To: State Governors, State and Local Juvenile Detention and Correctional Departments, and Juvenile Court Judges and Magistrates

From: Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform

Because detained and incarcerated populations are at high risk to contract a virus like COVID-19, which spreads through respiratory droplets, we strongly urge governors, juvenile court systems, and state and local juvenile detention and correctional departments to address the ongoing global health pandemic by swiftly implementing the following recommendations:

  1. Immediately release youth in detention and correctional facilities who can safely return to the home of their families and/or caretakers, with community-based supports and supervision, in order to alleviate potential exposure to COVID-19;
  2. Halt new admissions to detention and incarceration facilities to mitigate the harm from the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  3. Establish and share publicly a COVID-19 safety plan for all youth who remain in facilities to ensure they have proper access to cleaning and sanitation supplies, as well as resources, support, and contact with loved ones.

I. Coronavirus Pandemic

In light of the rapid global outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we want to bring attention to the serious risk of harms facing young people in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a national public health emergency on January 31, 2020. Governors across the nation have declared public health emergencies, and a national emergency was announced on March 13, 2020.

As of March 21, 2020, there have been more than 300,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with more than 13,000 deaths. The U.S. has more than 26,000 confirmed cases, with at least 300 deaths. Public health experts expect the number of confirmed cases to rise exponentially and warn that the situation in the U.S. will get worse before improving, possibly requiring us all to shelter in place.
 
II. Public Health Conditions in Detention and Correctional Facilities are Already Poor
 
Detention and correctional facilities are designed to maximize control of the young people in their population, not to minimize disease transmission or to efficiently deliver health care. Transmission of infectious diseases in adult jails and prisons is incredibly common, especially those transmitted by respiratory droplets. For example, it is estimated that up to one quarter of the U.S. prison population has been infected with tuberculosis, a rate of active TB infection that is six to ten times higher than the general population. Flu outbreaks are regular occurrences in jails and prisons across the United States. With a mortality rate 10 times greater than the seasonal flu and a higher R0 (the average number of individuals who can contract the disease from a single infected person) than Ebola, an outbreak of COVID-19 in youth detention and correctional facilities would be devastating.
 
III. Risks of a COVID-19 Outbreak in Detention
 
Emerging evidence about COVID-19 indicates that spread is mostly via respiratory droplets among close contacts and through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Reports that the virus may be viable for hours in the air and possibly days on surfaces are particularly concerning. Though it is believed that people are most contagious when they are symptomatic, transmission has been documented in the absence of symptoms. In about 19 percent of cases, COVID-19 illness is severe, including pneumonia with respiratory failure, septic shock, multi-organ failure, and even death. Some people are at higher risk of getting severely sick from this illness, including people who have serious chronic medical conditions like asthma, lung disease, and diabetes, and those who are immunocompromised. There are currently no antiviral drugs licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, or post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent infection once exposed.
 
Community spread is in the U.S., and staff at juvenile facilities have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of cases is growing exponentially, and health systems are already being strained. Social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control are nearly impossible in detention and correctional facilities, and testing remains largely unavailable. In facilities that are already crowded, large scale quarantines, which means isolation in many facilities, is neither feasible nor humane. Isolation may be misused and place young people at higher risk of neglect and death. COVID-19 threatens the well-being of detained youth, as well as the corrections staff who shuttle between the community and detention and/or correctional facilities.
 
COVID-19 cases have already been confirmed in detention facilities in which young people live in close quarters, which have subpar infection control measures in place, and whose population represents some of the most vulnerable. In this setting, we can expect spread of COVID-19 in a manner similar to that at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, at which over 50 percent of residents have tested positive for the virus and over 20 percent have died in the past month.
 
Given all we know about COVID-19 and the realities of juvenile detention facilities, the time to act is now. While this pandemic is unlike anything our country has seen before, it is important to ensure that all youth justice detention and corrections agencies develop a complete safety plan to ensure comprehensive and coordinated implementation across the entire agency. This not only includes typical health measures, such as ensuring all staff and youth have proper access to cleaning and sanitation supplies, and instructions to sanitize all surfaces throughout the day, but also ensuring mental health is not forgotten and that young people have resources, support, and
contact with loved ones.
 
IV. Incarcerating Children During this Crisis Exacerbates Trauma and Risks of Harm
 
No one is sure when this crisis will abate, and we are all feeling fear and uncertainty about the future. However, it is magnified for the families who are separated from their children because their children are incarcerated. The anxiety and emotional distress youth may feel when removed from the home and incarcerated is certainly exacerbated by the current pandemic. Our youth are the future of our nation and, recognizing that the majority of young people in detention and
correctional facilities across the nation are removed from their communities for non-violent charges and pose no threat to community safety, it is unacceptable to allow children to be separated from their families during this global crisis.
 
Many detention and correctional facilities have not communicated with youths’ parents, except to tell them they cannot visit. As noted previously, we do not believe detention and correctional facilities are equipped to appropriately handle this crisis. However, this vast lack of communication increases the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear on the part of families and their children.
 
According to the CDC, children, teens, and people with preexisting mental health conditions are among those “who many respond more strongly” to the stress and fears associated with the outbreak of this disease. In essence, a preexisting mental health condition renders a youth more vulnerable to increased distress related to the current health crisis. Research has consistently demonstrated the prevalence of mental health disorders among youth in the detention center is at least twice that of youth who are not detained. These uncertain times are traumatic for the country and the world. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “[c]hildren who suffer potentially traumatic events are more likely to develop lasting emotional problems if they are not with their parents – or are separated from their parents – immediately after the event.” Allowing youth to “shelter in place” with their families can potentially reduce the negative emotional impact that this global crisis may have on their current well-being and long-term adjustment.
 
V. Juvenile Courts Must Respond to this Public Health Crisis
 
Juvenile courts have an obligation to avoid the preventable spread of COVID-19 amongst the youth in their care. The COVID-19 outbreak puts young people at unnecessary risk of illness and of becoming carriers of the disease. Recent public health recommendations indicate that the safest practice for all people is to remain at home with family members as much as possible. Worldwide trends indicate these recommendations will become more stringent guidelines sooner rather than later. Further detention and incarceration of any minors who can remain safely at home with families and/or caretakers is inconsistent with the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system and contrary to public health recommendations.
 
Especially now that the nation has moved into the community transmission phase of this global pandemic, the possibility of detention and correctional staff transmitting the virus to youth in their custody, and/or infected youth passing the virus to staff is a real risk. This public health crisis requires each and every one of us to re-evaluate how we conduct our lives and care for one another. Institutions responsible for the care and custody of vulnerable populations must take unique steps to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of this virus. We strongly recommend that governors, juvenile court systems, and state and local juvenile detention and correctional departments across the nation release youth in detention and correctional facilities who can safely return to the home of their families and/or caretakers with community-based supports and supervision, and be mindful of incarcerating as few youth as possible in order to mitigate the harm from a COVID-19 outbreak.
 
Sincerely,
Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform

Write an Op-Ed for PfCJR for Our March Newsletter

Write an Op-Ed

THE TOPIC

Attorney General William P. Barr has supported an expansion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes involving fentanyl analogues that some have dubbed “The “New War on Drugs.”

THE QUESTION

Should the US government expand minimum sentencing penalties on fentanyl analogues? Would it actually help reduce illicit drug use? What inadvertent effects might it have on marginalized communities?

OP-ED CRITERIA

  • Respond to this month’s prompt
  • Writer must be a paid member of PfCJR
  • Remain under 750 words
  • Share your perspective on the topic
  • Due by March 15, 2020

Submit Piece

        » Send here

Background

NANCY GERTNER: William Barr’s New War on Drugs

The Washington Post: Attorney General William P. Barr’s support for an expansion of mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes involving fentanyl analogues should come as no surprise given his long record of hawking incarceration as a solution to our drug crisis. We have seen this movie before; it does not end well.

READ MORE >

SADIE GURMAN: Will William Barr Revive the 1990s Tough-on-Crime Approach?

The Wall Street Journal: William Barr’s vision of law and order was forged at the height of the 1990s crack epidemic, when the DC consensus was that long mandatory sentencing was the best way to fight crime. Since then, bipartisan support has shifted toward more lenient punishments and alternatives. Mr. Barr is signaling that the views defining his first stint in the role may be changing.

READ MORE >

Not sure how to write an op-ed?

Check out this op-ed training webinar! It provides tips for writing effective and engaging op-eds, specifically with regard to health care and physicians issues.

This webinar was co-hosted by one of our partners, Doctors For America, and Families USA.

Click here to watch the webinar.

Have any other questions? Reach us at our social media or the email contact listed below.

Write an Op-Ed for PfCJR for Our February Newsletter

Write an Op-Ed

THE TOPIC

The Second Look Amendment Act: a proposed bill which expands eligibility for sentence review to all those who committed crimes before age 25 and have served at least 15 years in prison.

THE QUESTION

Would the Second Look Amendment Act help or harm the criminal justice system? If passed, what effects would the bill have on public health and juvenile justice?

OP-ED CRITERIA

  • Writer must be a paid member of PfCJR
  • Remain under 750 words
  • Answer this month’s question
  • Share your perspective on the topic
  • Due by February 28, 2020

Submit Piece

        » Send here

Background

JAMES FORMAN JR: Justice Sometimes Needs A Do-Over

The Washington Post: Forman Jr. argues that the Second Look Amendment Act “offers a promising corrective to the harsh — and ineffective — practices once commonplace in courthouses across America. The bill gives the D.C. Council a chance to restore a measure of fairness to a criminal system often lacking it. If the council is willing to embrace reason over fearmongering, I am confident the Second Look Amendment Act will be recognized as another proud accomplishment.”

READ MORE >

THE POST: D.C. Has Gone Too Far on Justice Reforms

The Washington Post: The Post argues that the Second Look Act would be harmful to the criminal justice system. “Out the window would go transparency and truth in sentencing — the assurance to victims and the community that punishment is what it appears to be. By discouraging judges from considering the original crime when they weigh reducing sentences, the council is putting the public at increased risk, unnecessarily.”

READ MORE >

Not sure how to write an op-ed?

Check out this op-ed training webinar! It provides tips for writing effective and engaging op-eds, specifically with regard to health care and physicians issues.

This webinar was co-hosted by one of our partners, Doctors For America, and Families USA.

Click here to watch the webinar.

Have any other questions? Reach us at our social media or the email contact listed below.

Blinded By Fear: Why Americans Continue to Fail at Criminal Justice Reform

Blinded By Fear: Why Americans Continue to Fail at Criminal Justice Reform

Christopher Hoffman, MD

Following the deaths of 15 inmates last month, the failures of the Mississippi state justice system have become the most recent motivator for prison reform. According to Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo from the Marshall Project, the problems with Mississippi prisons include corrupt, underpaid staff, a poor guard to inmate ratio, powerful gangs, and frequent lockdowns. Of course, such cases of inhumane prison conditions are not exclusive to Mississippi. Recall — in 2019, video footage of a Brooklyn prison surfaced, revealing inmates beating on the windows to attract attention; they were out of lights, heat, and warm showers for an entire week in the middle of winter. Later in the same year, several prisons in Alabama were declared unconstitutional for violating the 8th amendment condemning “cruel and unusual punishment,” after investigators uncovered the routine occurrence of sexual assault and excessive violence toward inmates. These cases are not outliers; if anything, they speak to how negligence and lack of transparency are not only widespread problems that pervade the country, but also a structural issue that plagues the incarceration system at large. As medical professionals, it is imperative to promote the reform and reconstruction of the correctional system.

It is no secret that our prison system is in total ruin. Experts use adjectives like overcrowded, understaffed, violent, unsanitary, and even unconstitutional when reporting about our correctional facilities. In addition, prisons are expensive and do not deliver the promised results of rehabilitating inmates to eventually reintegrate into safer communities. According to an article from the Vara Institute of Justice, incarceration does little to alter crime rates, and instead diverts attention from the more effective and less costly ways to reduce and prevent crime. The fact that we spend nearly $24,000 more on inmate retention than education in the public-school system speaks volumes to our country’s priorities. Moreover, most of the money spent on these inmates go toward advancing punishment methods, even though many studies conducted by other countries like Norway have consistently shown that rehabilitation is the most efficient method for crime reduction. With such a defective system, Americans should reflect seriously on why so many of us are unconcerned about our prison system, and how acceptable it is that we have not yet demanded its complete overhaul.

The Maya Angelou quote, “when you know better, you do better,” comes to mind. We possess too much evidence to claim that we are unaware of the gravity of the problems in our justice system. And yet, despite this knowledge, we are still not doing better. Therefore, we must consider another variable unmentioned in the quote. That is emotion. Imagine this — a person comes to your home, tells you he or she was recently released from prison and asks for work. What are you feeling? Although the person has done nothing wrong, the feeling that you are experiencing is probably in the realm of fear — fear that this person is a criminal, doubt that he or she has learned to be “good” from their punishment, concern that his or her behavior has not truly changed, and anxiety that you might be the next victim. These are all valid reasons to be afraid.

However, criminal behavior is explained by far more than the mere notion that past actions predict future ones (i.e., once a criminal, always a criminal). A more realistic and humane understanding should recognize the fact that people who enter prison are not allowed to learn more adaptive ways of living, since punishment is the primary approach to corrections. Studies show that punishment is the least effective method for learning and changing behavior. It takes rehabilitation.

Twenty years ago, Norway’s “revolving door to prison” was much like that of the U.S., with a recidivism rate of about 60-70 percent. This rate decreased after focusing more on the humane treatment of inmates. They built prison facilities that look like dorms or apartments, and trained guards to be more helpful, like counselors. They treat inmates like students, providing education and counseling in a healthy environment to address the circumstances that landed them in prison. Now, their recidivism rate is down to about 20 percent. The Norwegian system is the model for restructuring our correctional system.

Unfortunately, we as a society have bought into the fear-based logic that confinement and punishment improve our collective safety and criminals cycle through prison because they cannot amount to anything else. We allow our fears to overshadow credible data and examples of more effective, less expensive correctional systems. We must gain the courage to trust the facts. As Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Let’s do better. Let’s try something different.

Christopher Hoffman is a board-certified psychiatrist and an active member of Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform. He strives to provide excellent care to individuals with mental disturbances, their families, and surrounding communities while creating greater awareness regarding insufficient services to poor and underserved communities.

Legalization: The Necessary Path Forward

Legalization: The Necessary Path Forward

Josh Pagano, D.O.

How do Joe Biden and Cory Booker differ on their policy stances on marijuana decriminalization and legalization? Which is the better policy?

Legalization of marijuana has become a major issue in the Democratic primary, inspiring the now-viral moment in which Cory Booker quipped at Joe Biden, “I thought you might have been high” when Biden announced he did not support the legalization of marijuana.

The criminalization of mental illness and addictive disorders is the major stressor affecting many stigmatized patients. Incarcerated people with substance use disorders are disproportionately poor and African American. As if suffering from addictive disorders were not difficult enough, the ramifications of resulting arrests are also debilitating. The immediate effects include job loss and homelessness, and the intermediate effects include all of the psychological consequences of incarceration — the trauma of physical violence, the fear for one’s safety, and the pressure to join gangs. Individuals leave prison having missed large portions of their family lives, with resulting damage to meaningful relationships. All of these effects compound with the long-term consequence of a criminal record that significantly limits the ability to acquire jobs or housing, and ultimately increases the risk of future violence and recidivism.

Of all illicit drugs, the one resulting in the most arrests is marijuana. Democratic candidates, Joe Biden and Cory Booker, propose different policies regarding how to address the legal status of marijuana. 

Joe Biden supports the decriminalization of the personal use of small amounts of marijuana, claiming that “The punishment should fit the crime, but I think legalization is a mistake.” Instead, he would prefer to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I Controlled Substance (where it currently resides with Heroin and LSD) to a Schedule II Controlled Substance (listed alongside Dilaudid®, Percocet®, and Fentanyl). However, the unlawful possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance is a misdemeanor or a felony depending on local state laws, implying that such a re-classification would likely not affect the rates of marijuana-related arrests. It is unclear how Biden will square this with his stance that marijuana should be decriminalized. 

As a point of comparison, alcohol was not always legal. The prohibition of alcohol between 1920 and 1933 initially reduced alcohol use and alcohol-related harm, but these benefits diminished over time as a black market developed to meet consumer demands. A review of arrest records indicates that prohibition had an immediate effect but no long-term impact on public intoxication. Moreover, Harvard University historian, Lisa McGirr, points out that prohibition had unduly adverse effects on African Americans, immigrants, and those with lower socioeconomic status. Law enforcement disproportionately policed these communities. Much like the war on drugs.  

Conversely, it was the legalization and regulation of alcohol, not its decriminalization, that helped America prosper. After the repeal of prohibition, the U.S. reduced criminal violence costs and accumulated billions from tax dollars, which were often earmarked for education, healthcare, addiction treatment, and prevention programs. What’s more, taxes reduce alcohol consumption, as they would similarly limit marijuana use. 

Cory Booker seeks to legalize marijuana and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act entirely. Booker has said, “It’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana. We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs. And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice.”

While those opposed to legalization argue that it would lead to increases in cannabis-related medical harms (e.g. pulmonary disease and psychosis), mere decriminalization also carries its own costs. Cannabis smokers will still primarily acquire their marijuana from unregulated and often violent drug cartels. Neighborhoods will still live in fear. Young people will still join gangs. Communities of color will still be over-represented in drug arrests. Only legalization will directly address these factors.

Upon legalization, preemptive policies can be implemented to mitigate the anticipated increase in marijuana use. With proper taxes, age restrictions, and prevention programs, society can reap the benefits of lower crime rates and less undue incarceration. To be sure, there is a cost to every solution, including legalization. However, decriminalizing marijuana will not decriminalize mental illness, and ignoring the societal cost of mass incarceration is more than we can continue to bear.  

Unfortunately, the issues of marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform were excluded from the Democratic Debates in December. As we approach the first primary votes, we can only hope that the American people will notice these omissions and take the initiative to continue this conversation. In Senator Booker’s absence, it will be up to the remaining candidates to pick up the torch and light the way toward reforming our criminal justice system.

Joshua Pagano, D.O. is a member of Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform. He is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in competence to stand trial evaluations and the treatment of severe mental illness.

Write an Op-Ed for PfCJR for Our February Newsletter

Write an Op-Ed

THE TOPIC

The Second Look Amendment Act: a proposed bill which expands eligibility for sentence review to all those who committed crimes before age 25 and have served at least 15 years in prison.

THE QUESTION

Would the Second Look Amendment Act help or harm the criminal justice system? If passed, what effects would the bill have on public health and juvenile justice?

OP-ED CRITERIA

  • Writer must be a paid member of PfCJR
  • Remain under 750 words
  • Answer this month’s question
  • Share your perspective on the topic
  • Due by January 19, 2020

Submit Piece

        » Send here

Background

JAMES FORMAN JR: Justice Sometimes Needs A Do-Over

The Washington Post: Forman Jr. argues that the Second Look Amendment Act “offers a promising corrective to the harsh — and ineffective — practices once commonplace in courthouses across America. The bill gives the D.C. Council a chance to restore a measure of fairness to a criminal system often lacking it. If the council is willing to embrace reason over fearmongering, I am confident the Second Look Amendment Act will be recognized as another proud accomplishment.”

READ MORE >

THE POST: D.C. Has Gone Too Far on Justice Reforms

The Washington Post: The Post argues that the Second Look Act would be harmful to the criminal justice system. “Out the window would go transparency and truth in sentencing — the assurance to victims and the community that punishment is what it appears to be. By discouraging judges from considering the original crime when they weigh reducing sentences, the council is putting the public at increased risk, unnecessarily.”

READ MORE >

Not sure how to write an op-ed?

Check out this op-ed training webinar! It provides tips for writing effective and engaging op-eds, specifically with regard to health care and physicians issues.

This webinar was co-hosted by one of our partners, Doctors For America, and Families USA.

Click here to watch the webinar.

Have any other questions? Reach us at our social media or the email contact listed below.

A Conversation With The President of the American Medical Student Association

PfCJR Interviews Isaiah Cochran, the National President of AMSA

Recently, Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform announced a collaboration with the American Medical Student Association, where a series of Op-eds and studies are being conducted on various topics such as Juvenile Health Legislation, and Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System. We interviewed Isaiah Cochran, to get some more insight on the collaboration. 

Isaiah A. Cochran, M.D. is national president and chair of the board of trustees for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). He serves as a key organizational spokesperson for AMSA and active promoter of the organization’s educational programming, advocacy pursuits and membership recruitment and engagement efforts. In addition to serving as an AMSA board member since 2016, Cochran also has held leadership positions with Refugee Student Alliance and Global Health Initiative. He earned his medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, and a bachelor’s degree from Waynesburg University, Waynesburg, Pa.

Why are you interested in criminal justice reform?

I am interested in CJ reform, due to the fact that there are many people who are being imprisoned and they should not be. We are also seeing minorities charged for crimes at a higher rate than non-minorities and this is not ok.  I stand by justice for everything in life, and CJ reform is no exception to my rule for paying it forward. When it comes to health care, there are far too many individuals who are not being taken care of in prison or people who are being kept in prison longer than they should be all the while not receiving proper care.

What are the goals of the partnership between PfCJR and AMSA?

Our goal is to provide awareness, educate the medical community, mobilize them, fight for change, and vote for those who support reforming the CJ system

Why does this partnership make sense?

It makes sense because we have physicians-in-training who are working with fully licensed docs who also believe in change. This is a powerful combination

What is the importance of the intersections between criminal justice reform and healthcare?

I addressed this a little in the first question. To be succinct, as physicians and physicians-in-training- we have vowed to do no harm. The goal is to maintain the health of those who have been imprisoned so that they can work to better themselves and become citizens who can feel comfortable and society and become productive members of the community. 

What specific project are you currently working on with pfcjr?

I just completed outlines for students to use about the elderly in prison and those who have a mental illness in prison. These were made so that students could feel comfortable enough to go out to their representatives and speak about how reform should happen.

Is there anything else you would like to share about this initiative?

Yes, our goal is to go state by state and get all of the medical community involved in this fight. If we all band together, then we can certainly make a change.

Open Leadership Positions

Open Leadership Positions

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform is seeking physicians to fill open leadership positions on our team. Available positions include:

  • Finance Committee Chair
  • Research Committee Chair
  • Juvenile Justice Taskforce Assistant Director

All positions:

  • Offer the opportunity to work with an engaged leadership team and established physician-activists on the most critical civil rights issue of our time
  • Are unpaid volunteer positions
  • Require a minimum commitment of 1 year

Want to apply for a position?

Responsibilities

Taskforce Directors/Assistant Directors:

  • Work with the Membership Committee to recruit members and fellows to the Taskforce
  • Work with the Research Committee to generate at least one white paper per quarter from their Taskforce 
  • Identify 3 experts within their Taskforce to become members of the PfCJR Speakers Bureau (see more) 
  • Identify 3 experts within their Taskforce to become members of the PfCJR Writers Bureau (see more) 
  • Provide the Public Relations Committee with links to Speakers Bureau events, Op-Eds, announcements of new partnerships, relevant content for posting across media platforms
  • Identify and engage at least 1 new partner organization and partner liaison in the first year, and maintaining those relationships thereafter
  • Report status/progress of the Taskforce at each Board Meeting 
  • Implement other initiatives that advocate reform on the assigned Core Issue as appropriate

Committee Chairs

  • Become a member either of the Speakers Bureau or Writers Bureau
  • Engage committee members each month by providing Taskforce Updates for the PfCJR monthly newsletter 
  • Hold committee meetings no less than quarterly to update and report progress on initiatives 
  • Provide the Social Media Committee with links to relevant content for posting across media platforms
  • Contribute a Committee Update to the Quarterly PfCJR Newsletter
  • Report status/progress of the Committee at each Board Meeting 
  • Implement other initiatives that advocate reform on Core Issues as appropriate 

TaskForce/Committee Descriptions

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee, chaired by the PfCJR Treasurer, is responsible for managing and monitoring the fiscal activities of PfCJR including accounting for revenues and expenditures, developing an annual budget, providing monthly budget reports to the Board of Directors, filing taxes annually and ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations for 501c3 organizations.

Research Committee

The Research Committee is responsible for identifying and centralizing research related to PfCJR’s Core Issues by disseminating findings to the PfCJR membership and public, and supporting Taskforces and Partner Liaisons with literature searches and white papers on Core Issues.

Correctional Healthcare TaskForce

The Correctional Healthcare TaskForce is responsible for recruiting members and implementing core strategies related to the provision of adequate mental and physical healthcare to incarcerated individuals. 

Juvenile Justice TaskForce

The Juvenile Justice Taskforce is responsible for recruiting members and implementing core strategies related to the identification and diversion of at-risk youth involved in the juvenile justice system. 

Archive of Past Op-Ed Topics

January 2020

THE TOPIC:

Joe Biden vs. Cory Booker on criminal justice reform and decriminalization of marijuana

THE QUESTION:

Why is decriminalization of marijuana an important issue in criminal reform? How do Biden and Booker’s different platforms address this issue?

BOOKER: Argues Joe Biden was ‘architect’ of criminal justice system

Politico: “Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday blamed Joe Biden for what he called a “failed” criminal justice system, dismissing the former vice president’s new plan to combat mass incarceration and escalating a weeks-long dispute between the pair.” Booker argues that his plan is more “comprehensive” and capable of creating “transformative change.”

READ MORE >

BIDEN: Scrutinized for Crime Bill, Unveils Plan to Reduce Mass Incarceration

New York Times: “Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose long record on criminal justice matters has cast a shadow over the early months of his presidential campaign, has unveiled a comprehensive plan aimed at combating mass incarceration and reducing “racial, gender and income-based disparities in the system.” 

READ MORE >

Not sure how to write an op-ed?

Check out this op-ed training webinar! It provides tips for writing effective and engaging op-eds, specifically with regard to health care and physicians issues.

This webinar was co-hosted by one of our partners, Doctors For America, and Families USA.

Click here to watch the webinar.

Have any other questions? Reach us at our social media or the email contact listed below.

A New Partnership for PfCJR

PfCJR Partners With A New Criminal Justice Taskforce From ACOEM

In 2016, the United States held 2.2 million people in prisons and jails, and about 870,000 of these inmates performed some type of work, whether supporting the functioning of the prison, for prison industries, or under contract for private corporations.

 

They work jobs with well characterized occupational hazards – agriculture, manufacturing, fire fighting, chemical production, and many others – yet our standard occupational health surveillance systems (eg OSHA and NIOSH) explicitly ignore work-related injuries, illnesses, or fatalities in this “institutionalized” population.

 

Furthermore, there are precisely zero articles in our medical and public health literature addressing the occupational health of prisoners, and prison inmates are almost completely excluded from every major labor and employment protection in the US.



 Finally, inmates are exposed to all the unique hazards of the prison environment – psychosocial stressors, physical and social isolation, poor institutional oversight, and vulnerability to exploitation, powerfully suggesting that these workers suffer higher rates of injury and illness compared to counterparts in the free market.

 

Herein lies the opportunity – physicians have precisely the training and authority to guide research and address hazards in prisoners’ workplaces. That research must document current injury and illness rates and advocate workplace controls equivalent to those in the free labor market. We must also characterize unique hazards faced by inmates, informed by social epidemiological and qualitative methods, while recognizing the larger environmental forces shaping their overall safety. 

 

The following article is the first to ever recognize the position inmates hold as the most marginalized of occupational populations, written by a member of the Incarcerated Workers Occupational Health Task Force, under the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). OEM physicians are certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine and specially trained to attend to the health of workers through epidemiological investigation, direct medical care, prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, and protection from environmental hazards.

 

This task force will be applying precisely these skills to address the workplace health of incarcerated workers. In the coming years we will confirm a literature review, scope and plan a research strategy, identify stakeholders, and publish the initial results from our investigations, but a challenge of this magnitude will require broader expertise.

 

The Task Force is seeking partners from all other medical specialties to help. Virchow reminds us that “It is the curse of humanity that it learns to tolerate even the most horrible situations by habituation,” but together we can build this research from the ground up, propose policy, and to lend the powerful, trusted, and moral voices of physicians to a critical and growing conversation about criminal justice reform. 

 

Andre Montoya-Barthelemy MD MPH

    Incarcerated Workers Occupational Health Task Force

    American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

    agmb1214@gmail.com

 

Andre Montoya-Barthelemy is a physician of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a recent graduate of the HealthPartners OEM residency where he completed his thesis on the labor rights of incarcerated workers, and now serving as clinical faculty, assistant residency director, and consultant medical director for Xcel Energy and General Mills. He intends to continue searching for ways for physicians to combine their unique skills and voice to address topics of human rights.