Covering Jails: Addiction Behind Bars


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Covering Jails: Addiction Behind Bars

People with addiction need treatment and care, not criminal punishment. This webinar will help reporters understand what the opioid epidemic looks like in local jails and how they can use storytelling to better shine a light on both problems and solutions.

Broadcast date: March 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern

This webinar is free thanks to the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation.



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Course summary

The current opioid epidemic is a public health crisis, and drug overdose is the leading cause of death among Americans under age 50. Incarcerated men and women are disproportionately affected by addiction, but they rarely get the life-saving treatment they need. This webinar will help reporters understand the origins of the opioid crisis, what it looks like behind bars and what solutions have been proven to positively impact public health and recidivism.

Webinar participants will learn from Dr. Lipi Roy, a nationally recognized expert on addiction. As the former Chief of Addiction Medicine at Rikers Island, she oversaw substance use treatment and recovery services for the nation’s second-largest jail. She will describe the neurobiology of addiction, stigma, harm reduction, racial disparities and effective treatment strategies that have made a difference for incarcerated people.

What will I learn?

  • How to view addiction as a chronic medical disease of the brain where relapse is expected, not a sign of moral weakness or failure
  • How local jails can use evidence-based treatment methods, including medications and behavioral therapies
  • How to analyze addiction and racial disparities in the incarcerated population in your community
  • To examine the role of stigma as a barrier to care for individuals with addiction
  • To identify unique story ideas relating to the opioid epidemic and local jails
  • Which resources will help in your reporting and storytelling

Who should take this course

Journalists covering criminal justice, public health, mental health or government. Anyone interested in learning about substance use disorders (addiction), public health, medicine, the neurobiology of addiction, mental health and the intersection of addiction and incarceration in the U.S. will also benefit.


Lipi Roy, MD, MPH, DABAM

Dr. Lipi Roy is an internal medicine physician board certified in addiction medicine as well as clinical assistant professor at the NYU Department of Population Health. As the former Chief of Addiction Medicine for NYC jails including Rikers Island, Dr. Roy oversaw substance use treatment and recovery services for the nation’s second-largest jail. Previously, she was a primary care doctor to Boston’s vulnerable homeless population, among whom the leading cause of death was drug overdose. She currently treats patients at an addiction treatment center in New York City. Dr. Roy also served as an attending physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She completed her medical and master’s in public health degrees at Tulane University, followed by internal medicine training at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Roy is a strong advocate for public service. In addition to caring for incarcerated and homeless men and women, she has served the underserved in Nicaragua and India, as well as New Orleans residents affected by Hurricane Katrina during medical school. Dr. Roy has also provided medical relief to earthquake victims in Haiti, and volunteered in the medical tent at the Boston Marathon. She currently volunteers with the New York City Medical Reserve Corps.

Dr. Roy is a sought-after speaker whose mission is to educate and empower the public to make healthy decisions through nutrition, mindfulness and addiction education. She is currently a Forbes contributor and has appeared on CNN, Dr. Oz and Charlie Rose; she has also published in the Huffington Post and STAT and has been featured in the The New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Cooking Light and Dr. Roy shares her expertise about health and wellness on her websites,, Spices for Life MD and her YouTube Channel. She can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About webinars

In this virtual classroom, participants can join in a seminar led by Poynter faculty and visiting faculty. This screencast includes live video and a slideshow presentation in which participants can post questions and respond to poll questions posed by the host.

Time estimate

This course is one-hour long. A recording is available within 24 hours after the live event.


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