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How Criminal System Racial Disparities May Translate into Health Disparities

Disadvantaged racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. are strikingly over-represented in the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems. This paper briefly reviews the extent of over-representation attributable primarily to drug offenses and an earlier conceptual framework introduced by Iguchi and colleagues showing how the use of incarceration as a key drug control tool has disproportionately affected the health and well being of racial and ethnic minority communities. We then provide observations from the field that demonstrate how the implementation of a quality assessment approach might be used to mitigate procedural/structural biases that contribute to disparities in minority confinement, and ultimately, to reduce disparities in access to resources and health care.