Dr. Meghan Novisky is Assistant Professor of Criminology at Cleveland State University. Her research examines incarceration as a social determinant of health, how detention conditions structure health differences, and the collateral consequences of criminal justice policy. Their research has been published in outlets including criminology, Quarterly equity, the British Journal of Criminology, Victims & perpetrators, and the Journal of Correctional Health Care. Since 2009, Dr. Novisky also worked as a correctional advisor to the University of Cincinnati’s Corrections Institute (UCCI), training law enforcement personnel to implement evidence-based rehabilitation programs. In response to COVID-19, she worked with the ACLU in drafting expert statements calling for the release or rendition of medically vulnerable adults incarcerated in Ohio prisons and prisons.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role as Associate Editor for BMCs? Health & Justiceand which particular aspects of your criminological background are you most looking forward to in your role?
In terms of my new role, I am thrilled to be working with a team of academics who share a vision to highlight research at the intersection of health and criminal justice. As for aspects of my criminological background that can be used in this new role, I believe that my experience in collecting original data in criminal law institutions can make a unique contribution. For example, I have collected data from people who live in prisons with different security levels (e.g. minimum to super max), people who have recently returned to society from prison terms (e.g. reentry centers), and from People who have had trauma and are insecure about their homes (e.g. shelters for domestic violence). Reaching these populations can be difficult and significant protection must be built into the methodology to ensure responses to the vulnerabilities of these groups. I can help impart expertise in these areas. One of my goals as an Associate Editor is to tailor some of my feedback to help authors increase the transparency of their data collection methods.
What do you think is already known about the interface between public health and criminal justice?
It is clear that contact with the criminal justice system is related to health and wellbeing. While individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system tend to be at higher risk of health problems early on in their studies, the nature of their experience with the criminal justice system can also create risks that exacerbate pre-existing health disparities. For example, people who have been sentenced to prison terms are more likely to experience psychological symptoms. However, incarceration can worsen these symptoms when people experience violence, become victims themselves, or are forced to remain in solitary confinement for long periods of time in prison.
In your opinion, where are there still gaps in knowledge in this area, if at all?
In my view, the greatest way to expand the literature is to document the health-related experiences of populations that are less likely to be the focus of research studies. For example, older adults and women represent both growing and substantial segments of the carcinoma population. At the same time, prisons are generally not adequately equipped to meet their special needs. Research has not kept pace with analyzing the unique experiences of these groups compared to younger incarcerated people and men.
In your opinion, are there any people with a legal background who are underrepresented in current research and who could be further funded by Health & Justice?
Yes. Research into the experiences of older adults and women in the criminal justice system is important in promoting them. Promoting the voices and expertise of those involved in justice is also vital. For example, I would like more research written by academics with experience in judicial participation, as well as more qualitative research that allows those with systemic participation to influence the results of research studies and priority areas.
What do you think are currently the biggest problems for the health and wellbeing of those involved in the justice system?
I think the biggest problem for the health and well-being of those involved in the justice system is the dehumanizing process that occurs in system contact. In prison, people are assigned and referred to as a number rather than a name. The public is often apathetic about the conditions of detention and the obstacles people face in their release. In short, people with involvement in the criminal justice system are exposed to many stressors and there is generally inadequate support in managing these stressors. This can affect wellbeing over time, affect access to vital health-related resources, and ultimately make it difficult for people to have second chances.