Friday, March 30, 2018

Prison Reform and Public Health

Stella DeSantis, the senior director of investments at Oppenheimer & Co., manages more than $50 million in assets. Stella DeSantis also stands out for her advocacy for prison reform and her interest in both practical and human rights issues surrounding criminal punishment.

Public health is often overlooked in the discussion of prison reform, even though prisons have both internal and external factors rendering them public health issues. For example, because many incarcerated individuals are from economically depressed areas with less access to health services, they are more likely to bring an existing health condition into prison. The environment of prison itself does little to remedy this, as nutrition, sanitation, fresh air, and exercise are often lacking to varying degrees in a prison environment.

Prison environments can also further encourage the spread of disease due to overcrowding. Common illnesses contracted by prisoners include HIV, skin conditions, and some forms of hepatitis, while some diseases, such as tuberculosis, can be up to 100 times as prevalent inside a prison as outside. Prison staff are subject to these conditions as well. This in turn allows illnesses cultivated in prisons to be brought into society. For these reasons, many prison-reform advocates urge that comprehensive prison reform requires a serious look at prison as a public health problem.