Pandemics, Prisons, and Policy: An Overview of Criminal Justice and Public Health in Tennessee

Hadassah Betapudi and Anna Walton

February 24, 2021

Executive Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on Tennessee’s incarcerated population have exposed gaping deficiencies in access to healthcare within our state’s criminal justice system. Incarcerated individuals experience higher rates of chronic and mental health conditions than the general population, and time spent incarcerated is associated with a significant decline in overall health. Those entering the criminal justice system encounter many barriers to adequate healthcare access, including fragmentation and lack of coordination of care, burdensome copays, privatization of correctional health, and lack of insurance prior to incarceration and after reentry. Reform is necessary to protect the health of one of our state’s most under-resourced populations

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