Ethics Grand Rounds Sept 23, 2022 | 12:15 - 1:30 pm CST | Zoom | Free | OPen to the Public

Not Equivalent, But Better: Human Rights and Health Care Behind Bars in the Time of COVID

Zoom | Free | Open to the public
Headshot of Brendan Saloner, PhD
Brendan Saloner, PhD


The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the lack of resources and oversight that hinders medical care for incarcerated people in the United States. The US Supreme Court has held that “deliberate indifference” to “serious medical needs” violates the Constitution. But this legal standard does not assure the consistent provision of health care services. This leads the United States to fall behind European nations that define universal standards of care grounded in principles of human rights and the ideal of equivalence that incarcerated and non-incarcerated people are entitled to the same health care. Drawing on a normative analysis and empirical research, this talk describes an incremental strategy based on expanding Medicaid into correctional facilities and improving comprehensive oversight that would move closer to the normative ideal without resolving many of the thorny problems of correctional health care.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To understand the foundation in human rights theory for a standard of health care in jails and prisons
  2. To define a pragmatic theory for advancing the health care of incarcerated people within the institutions and laws of the United States
  3. To explain how COVID-19 has changed the expectations and conditions for carceral health care in the United States

Note: This event is pending CLE credit approval. If you are seeking CLEs after attending the live event, email [email protected]

This was an event of the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs (OACA) hosted by the Center for Bioethics and co-sponsored by the following U of MN units: the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity, the Human Rights Center, the Medical School, the Program in Health Disparities Research, the Robina Institute, the School of Nursing, and the School of Public Health.

If you'd like to learn more about the author's work on this topic, you can read their publication: "A Human Rights Framework for Advancing the Standard of Medical Care for Incarcerated People in the United States in the Time of COVID-19"


Brendan Saloner, PhD, is a Bloomberg Associate Professor of Addiction and Overdose in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and core faculty in the Berman Institute of Bioethics. He focuses on improving the health care safety net for low-income and disadvantaged populations with a special emphasis on people who use drugs and people in the criminal legal system. Dr. Saloner co-leads the evaluation team of the Bloomberg Overdose Initiative, and has received grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Arnold Ventures, and the Greenwall Foundation. He has published widely on topics such as access to Medicaid funded services, substance use policy, and the ethics of resource allocation in public programs.