7th Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health to focus on chronic illness management in an aging prison population

March 19, 2014

Incarcerated elders are the fastest growing segment of the prison population, and their numbers have increased nearly 200 percent since the 1990s, according to the National Institute of Corrections. These inmates pose a challenge to correctional administrators because they often suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities that can be complex to manage and expensive to treat.

Experts from around the country will discuss these and other critical topics at the 7th Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health. The conference is hosted by the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, and is supported by the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). The two-day event will take place March 20-21 at the Hilton Houston North, 12400 Greenspoint Drive, Houston.

A major theme of this year’s conference is chronic illness management in an aging population. How to best manage the mounting needs of the incarcerated elderly population is a crucial issue for correctional health professionals.

“As the inmate population grows older and its medical needs become more complex, correctional administrators must be thoughtful about the approaches that will work best in their facilities while considering their financial realities,” said conference founder and co-chair Warren Ferguson, MD, a professor in Family Medicine & Community Health at UMass Medical School. “We hope this conference can provide correctional administrators with knowledge that they can bring back to their teams and put into practice.”

The conference will offer correctional health professionals the chance to learn and share best practices to improve the health of inmates. It will also provide a platform for leaders in the field to present innovative research on reducing the social and financial costs of incarceration.

“We spend five times more treating patients over age 55 than those under 55,” said Dr. Ben Raimer, senior vice president for UTMB Health Policy and Legislative Affairs. “Because of both the graying of the American population and the longer mandatory minimum sentences enacted during the 1990s, the over-55 prison population is growing 10 times faster than the prison population overall,” Raimer said.

That dilemma will be the focus of the keynote presentation from Dr. Brie Williams, associate director of the Program for the Aging Century at the University of California, San Francisco. Williams, who is also an associate professor of medicine, will present “The Aging Crisis in Criminal Justice Healthcare: A Way Forward.”

Williams works with collaborators from the criminal justice, correctional health and legal fields to apply the principles of geriatrics and palliative medicine to transform the care of older adults in the criminal justice system. She serves as a consultant for jails, prisons and legal organizations nationwide and was a member of the Workshop on Incarceration and Health sponsored by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division supports the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health. The Consortium is a membership organization consisting of universities and departments of corrections from across the country.

This unique conference is also funded through grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1R13DA030822-01) and the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation. The grant funding provides scholarships for 17 junior research investigators and students, all of whom will be recognized during the two-day meeting. 

This year’s conference will include participants from four countries, 27 states, and the District of Columbia. Attendees will include researchers, clinicians, administrators, educators, policy makers, and grant funding professionals from over 100 academic and correctional institutions.