This journal article examines the relationship between the public health approach and criminal justice research and practice. The authors emphasize the disciplines’ shared focus on the prevention of negative human outcomes: for public health, disease and injury prevention, and for criminal justice, crime prevention and treatment. They frame public health and criminal justice as forms of social control, and encourage further analysis of why public health efforts are more often seen as “progressive,” whereas criminal justice efforts are seen as “repressive.”
The authors draw from previous studies to show parallels between public health and criminal justice approaches to violent behavior and prevention. They find that both approaches appear to employ primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of prevention. They illustrate how the criminal justice system (including law enforcement, the judicial system, and juvenile and adult field work and incarceration) often fails to meet its public health responsibilities (including disease prevention, sanitation, response to outbreaks, and adequate medical and mental health care), in part due to federal, state, and local statutory restrictions. The authors offer the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) as an example of an intervention and prevention method developed through evidence-based public health and criminal justice approaches. They encourage further discussion of the effectiveness of this type of disciplinary integration.