Wisconsin university to offer course on treating inmates

August 12, 2018

MADISON The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health will offer a new course to teach future doctors how to treat a growing prison population and former convicts once they are released.

The new course will be offered this fall, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The university is recruiting up to 20 students for the class that will teach students about the trauma people who are incarcerated experience before, during and after serving their sentence.

"We know they have more health care problems than the general population," said Robert Striker, an infectious disease specialist with the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "We know that diseases that (current or former inmates) have are not necessarily going to stay with them because germs don't respect the boundaries of our legal system."

Striker, who helps the state Department of Corrections treat conditions like hepatitis C and HIV, is behind the course. He's working with the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, a Madison-based nonprofit organization that works to address both social and justice issues affecting African-Americans in the greater Madison community.

Nehemiah is also collaborating with medical school educators, the Department of Corrections and former prisoners to try and address how both racial disparities and the re-entry of prisoners into society affects health care practices.

"We put our heads together and realized that health care providers in the criminal justice system need to have a clear understanding of how the system works, where the good things are and where the challenges are so that they can deliver care in a more culturally responsive way," said Karen Reece, director of research and program evaluation at Nehemiah.

The course will focus on the importance of delivering quality care to current and former inmates. Tours of jails and prisons are also being planned. Students will be able to shadow medical professionals working in the correctional system.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse pushes for reusable straws

LA CROSSE The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is moving toward replacing plastic straws with reusable straws at dining locations on campus.

The university announced the change to reusable straws in a letter to faculty and staff earlier this month, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The idea to push for reusable straws came from the new leaders of the university's Student Association, said University Centers Director Larry Ringgenberg.

The university will likely promote the movement by handing out free reusable straws this fall, Ringgenberg said. Officials plan to eventually make the straws available for purchase, he said.

Ringgenberg said there's been some pushback to the idea, with concerns over how the change will affect those with disabilities who need straws.

While limiting the use of plastic straws is a positive thing for the environment, they shouldn't be banned completely because some people with disabilities rely on them, said Michaela Gaffke from Aptiv, a nonprofit that provides services to people with mental and physical disabilities.

"Other (straw) materials hold a choking hazard, injury risk, and are not safe for high temperatures," she said. "Also these materials are not position-able like the plastic straws."

Plastic straws will be still available upon requests, Ringgenberg said.

Ringgenberg said there are also questions about if the change is really needed since most of the university's garbage is used at a local waste-to-energy plant. Officials still hope to reduce the amount of single-use plastic on campus, he said.

Students will be able to decide if they wish to vote on a referendum that completely bans straws from campus, Ringgenberg said.

"When the students actually vote on it, I think that will be a really interesting reaction," he said. "We'll find out what the college students of today really feel and if they think it's a fad or if they think it's a really good idea to do something with this."

Students may vote on the referendum as early as September.


Associated Press