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Core Issues

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform seeks to support the creation of a humane, egalitarian justice system by advocating for the following reforms.

Reduction of violent encounters between law enforcement professionals and the general public.
  • In 2015, 1186 people were killed during interactions with police. This is more people than in 2014.
  • In the first six months of 2016, 532 people were killed during interactions with the police. The majority were killed by shooting. This exceeds the number killed in the first six months of 2015.
  • Black people and Native Americans are being killed at higher rates than any other ethnic/racial demographic group.
  • 2015 saw the highest number of police officers being charged for deadly, on-duty shootings in a decade. Still, in a year when approximately 1,200 people were killed by police, zero officers were convicted of murder or manslaughter, painting the picture that officers involved in killing another person will not be held accountable for their actions.
  • Cases in which a police officer causes serious injury to civilians including through the use of stun guns, pepper spray or even fists and feet, are not currently required to be reported to the FBI.
Decriminalization of mental health and addictive disorders
  • Across the nation, individuals with severe mental illness are three times more likely to be in a jail or prison than in a mental health facility and 40 percent of individuals with a severe mental illness will have spent some time in their lives in either jail, prison, or community corrections.
  • It has been shown that about 20 percent of prison inmates have a serious mental illness, 30 to 60 percent have substance abuse problems and, when including broadbased mental illnesses, the percentages increase significantly.
  • An estimated 50 percent of males and 75 percent of female inmates in state prisons, and 75 percent of females and 63 percent of male inmates in jails, will experience a mental health problem requiring mental health services in any given year.
  • Despite 45 million drug related arrests in the U.S., rates of addiction remain unchanged and overdose deaths are at an alltime high.
Reform of the juvenile justice system to identify and divert at risk adolescents.
  • On any given night in America, 10,000 children are held in adult jails and prisons. As many as 70 percent of youth in the juvenile
    justice system have a diagnosable mentalhealth disorder.
  • Youth housed in adult jails are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than are youth housed in juvenile detention facilities.
  • According to research by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, youth under the age of 18 represented 21 percent of all substantiated victims of inmateoninmate sexual violence in jails in 2005, and 13 percent in 2006 – surprisingly high since only one percent of jail
    inmates are juveniles.
Provision of adequate access to physical and psychiatric health care for current inmates.
  • Medical experts say inmates typically experience the effects of age sooner than do people outside prison because of issues such as
    substance use disorders, inadequate preventive and primary care before incarceration, and stress linked to the isolation and
    sometimesviolent environment of prison.
  • Prison inmates have a higher incidence of chronic and infectious diseases, such as AIDS and hepatitis C, and mental illness than that of the general population.
  • The United States continues to have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, with percent of the world population, but nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
  • By ending mass incarceration, correctional physician resources will be better matched to demand and fewer individuals with be
    exposed to the stressors of incarceration that lead to higher rates of chronic illness
  • About 66% of prisoners and 40% of jail inmates with a chronic condition at the time of interview reported taking prescription
    medication.