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Connections between criminal justice and health


According to the HPIO Health Value Dashboard™, Ohio ranks 47 out of 50 states and D.C. on health value  — a composite measure of population health outcomes and healthcare spending. Incarceration, arrest and crime contribute to Ohio’s poor health value rank.

The research evidence is clear that poor mental health and addiction are risk factors for criminal justice involvement and that incarceration is detrimental to health. Obstacles to health and well-being are particularly striking for Ohioans who are at highest risk of criminal justice involvement. This brief summarizes research on the complex connections between criminal justice and health, with a focus on the impact of criminal justice involvement on health and well-being. The brief also outlines policy options that state policymakers and other community leaders can take to reduce incarceration and improve the health of Ohioans at highest risk for criminal justice involvement.

3 Key findings for policymakers

  • There is a two-way relationship between criminal justice and health. Mental health and addiction challenges can lead to arrest and incarceration, and incarceration contributes to poor behavioral and physical health for many Ohioans.
  • Racism and community conditions contribute to criminal justice involvement and poor health. Racist and discriminatory policies and practices and community conditions, such as poverty, housing instability and exposure to trauma, lead to increased criminal justice involvement and drive poor health outcomes.
  • Improvement is possible. There are evidence-informed policy solutions to combat the drivers of criminal justice involvement and poor health outcomes.

More resources


Hailey Akah, JD, MA

Stephen Listisen, MPA

Published On

June 9, 2021

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. 3 Key findings for policymakers
  3. More resources
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