Introduction to the article:
Aligning some of the functions of public safety and public health can improve the way that policing operates in the U.S., and absolve the “iatrogenic” harms caused by the criminal justice system, says a paper published in the Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being.
According to the paper’s authors, Fellows of the Health in Justice Action Lab, acknowledging that a police action has been iatrogenic―a medical term referring to inadvertent harm caused by a physician, but which has been applied to criminal justice―is a first step towards increasing law enforcement accountability.
Policing that places more emphasis on deterrence and incapacitation rather than rehabilitation and retribution, can aggravate problems like homelessness, mental distress and drug use that often bring individuals into contact with law enforcement.
But a public health approach informed by behavioral health and science can have a positive effect, says the paper, based on conversations from the 6th International Law Enforcement & Public Health (LEPH) Conference, which was held virtually this year in March.