By Gilman Halsted
A group that advocates for overhauling the state’s prison system has received a $1 million grant to improve the health of former inmates after they’re released.
The five-year grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program will link the 160 churches in the WISDOM network with public health experts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Family Medicine. A group of ex-prisoners will help lead a study of the health barriers that many returning prisoners and their families face.
WISDOM Director David Liners said a key focus will be reform of the parole revocation process that often lands former offenders back in prison.
“What’s the impact on the individual, what’s the impact on their family, what’s the impact on their community of revoking people for technical violations?” he said. “What would be the optimal thing to do if we actually wanted people to be healthy and functional?”
Liners said the goal is to broaden the purpose of parole to include public health, not just punishment and public safety.
Patrick Remington, the associate dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, chairs the committee that awarded the grant. He said the project is part of a broader effort at the UW school to try to solve health problems “upstream.”
“Health care providers will eventually see these individuals with health problems, but it will be far down the road and sometimes really too late to intervene,” he said.
Remington said that changing the parole revocation system could have a direct impact on the health of not just inmates, but their families as well.
© Copyright 2015, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.