Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein and colleagues published a policy brief advocating for the adoption of harm reduction strategies in criminal justice settings as a way to prevent increased risk of overdose among recently released individuals. This policy brief appears in a special issue of the International Journal for Prisoner Health entitled "Translating Research into Policy to Advance Correctional Health".
Overdose is the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Those with criminal justice involvement experience disproportionately higher rates of fatal and non-fatal overdose.
Strategies are needed to reduce overdose deaths among those with recent incarceration. Jails and prisons are at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic but are a largely untapped setting for implementing overdose education, risk assessment, medication assisted treatment, and naloxone distribution programs. Federal, state, and local plans commonly lack corrections as an ingredient in combating overdose. Harm reduction strategies are vital for reducing the risk of overdose in the post-release community.
Therefore, we recommend that the following be implemented in correctional settings: 1) expansion of overdose education and naloxone programs; 2) establishment of comprehensive medication assisted treatment programs as standard of care; 3) development of corrections-specific overdose risk assessment tools; and 4) increased collaboration between corrections entities and community-based organizations.
In this policy brief we provide recommendations for implementing harm reduction approaches in criminal justice settings. Adoption of these strategies could reduce the number of overdoses among those with recent criminal justice involvement.