Medical students target incarceration issues

2018 AMA Annual Meeting

Details of all resolutions introduced at the AMA Annual Meeting, held June 9-13 in Chicago, are in the Delegates Handbook. Reference committee reports may be found on the same page. 

ISMA Medical Student Society members introduce two resolutions at this year’s AMA annual meeting. 

ISMA Medical Student Society members introduced two resolutions at this year's AMA annual meeting. Indiana University School of Medicine student Arvind Haran was the primary author on the first measure, which supports using alternatives to money bail for pretrial release of suspects in nonviolent crimes.
Resolution 408, “Ending Money Bail to Decrease Burden on Lower Income Communities,” calls for the AMA to recognize the adverse health effects of pretrial detention and to support legislation promoting the use of non-financial release options, such as unsecured bonds, for those accused of nonviolent crimes. The measure was  inspired by Haran’s research last year at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, in which he sought to determine a utility score for incarceration that could be used later to determine the quality-adjusted life years lost to incarceration. 

“From extended conversations and health surveys with inmates, I learned that many of them were detained pretrial for nonviolent crimes because of their inability to pay bail,” Haran said. “This often interrupted housing, employment, health insurance and child care and exposed these individuals to the dangers of incarceration, including a higher risk of self-harm and suicide, infectious diseases, sexual victimization and lack of medical treatment. 

“Seeing the people directly affected by money bail and reading more about this issue made me realize how harmful this policy can be to public health, and how wasteful it is to our resources, talents and the valuable lives in our society.” 

Haran said that introducing the resolution was an opportunity to bring a public health perspective to the issue. 

“I am beyond thankful to have been able to see this through to passing the House of Delegates,” he said. “This experience showed me that medical students can really make an impact at a larger level and we should never be afraid to think big.”

The other ISMA student resolution, Resolution 412, “Reducing the Use of Restricted Housing in Prisoners with Mental Illness,” was also adopted with amendments. The measure calls for the AMA to support limited use of solitary confinement for anyone with a mental illness incarcerated in an adult facility, with rare exceptions, and to support efforts to ensure that health professionals regularly monitor the mental and physical health of anyone placed in solitary confinement.

 Resolution 412 also directs the AMA to encourage appropriate stakeholders to explore, develop and implement alternatives to solitary confinement in all correctional facilities.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH (center) meets with ISMA delegates, officers, and resident and student members at the AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.