A Systematic Review of Health Impact Assessments in the Criminal Justice System


This study is a systematic review of the current and potential role of a public health tool or process called a health impact assessment (HIA) within the criminal justice system. The review explores the range of criminal justice policies, programs, and projects and their health impacts that have been evaluated by HIAs, and identifies strengths, challenges, and opportunities for the utilization of HIAs in the criminal justice system. Employing HIA clearinghouses and online databases, we conducted a two-phase sample selection that yielded 20 HIAs from the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand for inclusion. The review analyzed key characteristics of the HIAs including setting, topic, stakeholder engagement levels, funding sources, methods, and recommendations. Factors like high stakeholder engagement, adequate time and staff capacities, and community leadership made HIAs more influential on decisions made. Three case studies highlight the impacts and successful application of HIAs conducted on criminal justice issues. Health impact assessments have potential as an influential tool or process to lead better policy and program decisions in criminal justice by contributing to increasing equity and improving health.

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  1. 1.

    Inmates under the jurisdiction of state or federal prisons and local jails

  2. 2.

    Includes those on probation or parole and living in the community or held in local jail

  3. 3.

    For the purposes of this study, defined as the system of law enforcement, the judiciary, corrections, and probation that is directly involved in the apprehension, prosecution, defense, sentencing, incarceration, and supervision of those suspected of or charged with criminal offenses ("criminal justice" in American Heritage Dictionary of English Language, 2011).

  4. 4.

    Used Boolean search method

  5. 5.

    Materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing and distribution channels such as dissertations, conference abstracts, private sector papers, or governmental reports


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The authors would like to thank Dr. Hedwig Lee for her insights and feedback.

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Correspondence to Eva Hom.

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Hom, E., Dannenberg, A.L., Farquhar, S. et al. A Systematic Review of Health Impact Assessments in the Criminal Justice System. Am J Crim Just 42, 883–908 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-017-9391-9

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  • Criminal justice
  • Public health
  • Health impact assessment
  • Public policy
  • Social impact