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Health Equity for Smart Justice

By: Kristine Alarcon

Many state law enforcement and criminal justice stakeholders want Smart Justice, which would initiate prison reform. Reforming prison and reentry efforts, according to the RAND Corporation, must provide access to primary health treatment and services. The Treatment Advocacy Center states that "approximately 20 percent of inmates in jails and 15 percent of inmates... in prisons have a serious mental illness.”

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Criminal justice reform efforts began in 1997 and Broward County, Florida found some trouble associated with the process. A major challenge within criminal justice reform is the improvement of the system's cultural approach as well as within community-based mental health systems. Other challenges include identifying how this type of care can be maintained with minimal resources.

A change in the system is even more crucial now, especially since there are more and more incarcerations nationwide. This could impact state budgets heavily and negatively effect and damage the social cultural aspects of the communities.

One solution to push towards the reform would be with improving Health Equity. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Health Equity as “a characteristic common to groups that experience health inequities – such as poor or marginalized persons, racial and ethnic minorities, and women – in a lack of political, social or economic power.” However, solely providing Health Equity would not solidify reform and/or change. There must also be empowerment for the group in question, the incarcerated in this case.

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For Broward County, the Mental Health Court accepts these values and principles. By considering community behavioral health treatment and services, the community seems to have benefited. The criminal justice and behavioral health stakeholders are preparing to hopefully apply for a future Florida Criminal Justice Reinvestment Grant when they attended the Sequential Mapping Form at the Nova Southeastern University.

Health Equity is a very important part of smart justice initiatives and criminal justice reforms. There are many states that are also pushing for reform with these ideals and they are making progress like the Florida’s. Providing Health Equity is important for those incarcerated and even the safety and health of all Americans.


Kristine Alarcon graduated at the University of San Francisco with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is working towards certification in Sterile Processing and Distribution. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.



Lerner-Wren, Ginger. “Smart Justice – Begins With Health Equity.” Huffington Post. Retrieved on June 21, 2015.

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