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Philadelphia, October 7, 2014 - The authors of an article
being published in Annals of Internal Medicine say that
physicians are getting a wake-up call about the effects of mass
incarceration from an unexpected place: Sesame Street.
Currently, more than two million people are incarcerated in the
United States - more than any other country in the world. The
authors of "Sesame Street Goes to Jail: Physicians Should Follow"
argue that while many people need to be in prison for the safety of
society, a majority are incarcerated due to behaviors attributable
to treatable diseases such as mental illness and addiction. The
authors suggest policy changes that would allow doctors to steer
eligible defendants into treatment programs rather than
correctional facilities, when appropriate.
"Currently we have a model that puts punishment before
treatment," said Scott Allen, MD, Clinical Professor and Associate
Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of California, Riverside
and a co-author on the paper. "The medical community really needs
to get more involved in the public policy arena to develop
alternatives to incarceration and put treatment before punishment
When incarceration is necessary, doctors and correctional
medicine should coordinate transfer of patient care upon release so
that any gains made during incarceration are not lost. They say
that physicians also should be aware of social issues such as
education, housing, race, and poverty because they can adversely
affect health. These same issues also increase the risk of
The authors were inspired to call physicians to action by
Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative. A
Muppet named Alex provides support and a voice for young kids,
while the online toolkit provides caregivers with a range of
materials to help guide children through the challenges associated
with the incarceration of a loved one.
This is important, say the authors, because incarceration plays
a role in health and health disparities for not only the person
incarcerated, but also for their families.
About Annals of Internal
Published by the American College of Physicians (ACP), Annals of
Internal Medicine is one of the most widely cited
peer-reviewed medical journals in the world. Annals of Internal
Medicine has a 2013 impact factor of 16.104, ranking it fifth
out of 150 journals in the General & Internal Medicine
category. The journal has been published for 88 years and accepts
only about 7 percent of the original research studies submitted for
publication. Get the latest news and information from the journal
on Twitter and