Patient Safety: Moving the Bar in Prison Health Care Standards

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform CORE ISSUE: Provision of adequate access to physical and psychiatric health care for current inmates.

Abstract

Improvements in community health care quality through error reduction have been slow to transfer to correctional settings. We convened a panel of correctional experts, which recommended 60 patient safety standards focusing on such issues as creating safety cultures at organizational, supervisory, and staff levels through changes to policy and training and by ensuring staff competency, reducing medication errors, encouraging the seamless transfer of information between and within practice settings, and developing mechanisms to detect errors or near misses and to shift the emphasis from blaming staff to fixing systems. To our knowledge, this is the first published set of standards focusing on patient safety in prisons, adapted from the emerging literature on quality improvement in the community.

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Human Rights Watch Report

Human Rights PfCJR CORE ISSUE:  Provision of adequate access to physical and psychiatric health care for current inmates. Human Rights Watch has issued a 127-page investigative report that describes the use of excessive force by the criminal justice system in America. The report, “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force Against Inmates With Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons,” charges that, “Jails and prisons staff throughout the United States have used unnecessary, excessive and even malicious force against prisoners with mental disabilities.”

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform Official Launch

On May 11, 2015, neurosurgeon Dr. Edjah Nduom, officially launched Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform. Using Facebook as a the main vehicle, he and his co-founder, Dr. Nzinga Harrison, a highly-respected psychiatrist invited physician colleagues and non-physician allies to join the organization which was formed to provide a collective voice through which physicians can advocate to eliminate the damaging health consequences that can result from interactions with the criminal justice system. Below is a copy of the inaugural Facebook post.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am very proud to announce the official launch of an organization that I have founded, together with a small team of like-minded physicians – Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform.

You all may have noticed the difference in my Facebook activity over the last several months. Several recent tragic events involving the deaths of unarmed men at the hands of the police have highlighted longstanding concerns regarding how the police interact with certain at-risk communities. These events have captured my attention, along with the attention of the media and concerned people worldwide.

While it may be tempting to feel gratified that these events have received publicity and leave it at that, I have spent the last several months feeling that we all need to spend more time addressing the factors that are truly at the root of many of the issues we see today.

In my own research, this led me to Criminal Justice Reform as a major root cause, time and time again. As a physician, the next question became – is there a specific role for physicians to make a significant impact on this issue? I quickly decided that the answer was, “Yes, but how?” I started by looking for an organization for physicians interested in these issues, and I could not find anything that spoke to the concerns that I have with the current criminal justice system.

About four months ago, I reached out to Nzinga Harrison, a leading psychiatrist in Atlanta, GA with the idea of founding an organization for physicians to address these issues. Instead of telling me that I was insane, she was excited, and we quickly reached out to others, who all expressed their enthusiasm and lent their expertise to the cause.

Over the last four months, I have spent hours of my own free time studying, speaking with colleagues, reading articles and searching for resources on this topic. After numerous brainstorming sessions, conference calls and emails back and forth, we have created the language for this organization that we feel truly represents the best way forward for physicians to have a real impact on creating lasting reform in the criminal justice system that can help our most vulnerable patients.

Physicians can no longer stand on the sidelines while our patients suffer due to flaws in the criminal justice system. The time is now to make our voices heard.

Please join us on Facebook at facebook.com/pfcjr and on Twitter: @PfCJReform.

Our Indiegogo page, to raise funds to establish our organization as a 501c3 organization and create a permanent website is live at: http://igg.me/at/pfcjr

We look forward to working with you soon!

Edjah

If you are interested in joining or supporting Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform (PfCJR), you can: