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During 18 years as an assistant US attorney in the Eastern District of New York, Maureen Barden ’78 became increasingly concerned with repeat offenders. “As federal sentences became longer and longer and mandatory sentencing laws tied our hands in so many cases, I was anxious to help people stay out of prison,” she said. “Working with the reentering population was a natural segue from my work as a prosecutor.”
Named a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow by the Open Society Foundations, Barden will work with the Pennsylvania Health Law Project to develop and implement model policies and practices to give former inmates better access to health care, building on opportunities provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Although the ACA will expand Medicaid eligibility and establish state-based health insurance exchanges that will improve health care for former prisoners, barriers to access still exist, Barden says. She points to multiple studies indicating a correlation between increased health care access and decreased recidivism. “Anything that assists the reentering population with basic needs and reinforces their ties to the larger community is likely to help people stay out of jail.”