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From Security to Health

Democracy and the Governance of Security, Forthcoming

41 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2006  

Scott Burris

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law


Security matters to health. Crime victimization causes death, injury and illness. Injury or death is an occupational hazard for police. The criminal justice system causes injury and illness in the course of attempting to punish and deter crime. Policing policies and practices can have a significant impact on the ability of other public and private agencies to successfully implement health interventions. Police themselves routinely deal with people who have serious health needs, and even on occasion are the primary agents implementing health interventions. The health consequences of law enforcement are far from trivial, making it important for health to be integrated as a matter of concern into criminological research and law enforcement practice. The link between health and policing, and the significance of health outcomes, should be more fully accepted in criminology. Likewise, the governance of security is an important matter for public health research and practice.

If health outcomes are seen as an important product of security arrangements, conventional policing can be reconfigured to reduce negative health consequences and promote positive ones. There are, however, limits to the extent that state-centered policing can be expected to change. The theory of nodal governance and the programmatic work of innovators in the "governance of security" movement offer useful insights into the coordination of health and security outside the state-centered policing framework. Experience with both health and security-based schemes shows the promise of "microgovernance" strategies that promote health and security by mobilizing local knowledge and capacity among poor people with historically poor relations with conventional police systems. Serious practical and theoretical questions can be raised about the long-term prospects of these strategies, particularly the capacity of small groups of poor people to manage events flowing from more generalized and more powerful sources. While valid in some respects, however, such criticism misses the "democratic experimentalism" as the heart of the governance of security approach.

Keywords: health, policing, law

Suggested Citation

Burris, Scott, From Security to Health. Available at SSRN:

Scott Burris (Contact Author)

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-6576 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)


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