Dear ACCJH members,
The ACCJH mission is to advance the science and practice of health care for individuals and populations within the criminal justice system. It is impossible for us to fulfill this mission, particularly in the United States, without addressing racism, social injustice, and structural inequalities affecting Black communities. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, and too many others have spotlighted this racism and the terrible physical and mental burden borne especially by Black people and their communities. The COVID pandemic and its economic impact have deepened racial inequalities, exacerbated racism and xenophobia, and further revealed immense disparities in access to adequate health care for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). We stand with Black Lives Matter and other movements working to end racial injustices, including police brutality, that are sustained by white supremacy.
Systemic racism in the United States is most apparent in our criminal justice system. Black feminist scholars like Dorothy Roberts, Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, and many others show how the current US system of mass incarceration is the latest manifestation of racial control born out of chattel slavery. Today, Black people are disproportionately assaulted, arrested, detained, and incarcerated daily, and experience consequent disparities in health and health care. The negative long-term health impacts of incarceration are myriad, making mass incarceration an important social determinant of health and a driver of racial health disparities. We are committed to addressing racism and social injustice through our work with ACCJH and fighting the violence committed against Black people every day.
Statements of commitment are hollow without a clear action plan to move forward. Below, we outline our initial action plan, and we will continue to follow-up in the coming weeks and months.
- We formed a Racial and Social Justice Workgroup and invite all ACCJH members to participate in the workgroup. This workgroup was initiated in Fall 2019 to address the lack of diversity and representation among ACCJH conference speakers. We had planned to invite the full ACCJH membership to join this group this summer, but recent events have underscored the importance and urgency of this workgroup and the need for us to do more. Please contact the Racial and Social Justice Workgroup to join (hyperlink).
- We will invite BIPOC scholars and activists to serve as keynote and plenary speakers at our annual conference. We will send out an email with more details the week of June 15-19, 2020 and ask for your nominations for future speakers.
- The ACCJH Board of Directors are meeting on June 25th, 2020. We plan to use a large portion of our agenda to discuss how we as a consortium, while staying on mission, can advance interventions and action items to promote racial and social justice and equity in academic settings, other social institutions, and in our communities. We will explore action items in three areas of commitment:
- Mentoring BIPOC scholars at all levels to expand the workforce of criminal justice health as clinicians and researchers.
- Advancing the careers of individuals with lived criminal justice experience to accelerate opportunities and expand options.
- Engaging in advocacy to improve the quality of care for individuals that are involved in or work in the criminal justice and health systems.
- We will host town halls later this summer to provide a forum for our membership to share their thoughts, feelings, ideas for change, and anything else they would like to share. We also plan to hold future town halls to discuss developing our action plan.
- A summary of the board discussion, town hall(s) and preliminary action plan will be released to the ACCJH membership in September 2020.
We look forward to expanding this list with your input and insights.
Racism has always been a problem in our society and is foundational to aggressive policing and mass incarceration in the United States. The impact on the health and well-being of our Black citizens has been well documented. Racism is a public health crisis and criminal justice health is public health. ACCJH has a vital role in dismantling these historic injustices.
ACCJH Board of Directors