Jessica L. Adler

Associate Professor of History, Florida International University
Chapter Member: Florida SSN
Areas of Expertise:

Connect with Jessica

About Jessica

Adler researches and teaches about the history of health care, war and society, and incarceration in the modern United States. Her first book, Burdens of War: Creating the United States Veterans Health System, is about the World War I-era origins of the nation’s largest integrated health care system. She is currently working on projects examining the history of medical services in U.S. prisons, and late twentieth century transformations in the veterans’ health program.


In the News

Opinion: "We Studied Jail Conditions and Jail Deaths − Here’s What We Found," Jessica L. Adler, The Conversation, November 13, 2023.
Opinion: "Characterizing Carceral Health at the NLM," Jessica L. Adler, Circulating Now, From the Historical Collections of the National Library of Medicine, August 17, 2023.
Opinion: "Florida’s Crackdown on Higher Education," Jessica L. Adler, South Florida Sun Sentinel, March 9, 2023.
Opinion: "The Activism of Military Veterans Spans the Political Spectrum," Jessica L. Adler, The Washington Post, November 11, 2022.
Opinion: "Florida's Divisive Concepts Bill Mistakes What Historians Do, with Dire Implications," Jessica L. Adler, History News Network, June 12, 2022.
Opinion: "Inhumane System of Incarceration in U.S. Poses Special Danger to Women," Jessica L. Adler, The Washington Post, June 16, 2021.
Opinion: "If We Want to Stop Covid-19, We Can't Forget the Incarcerated," Jessica L. Adler, The Washington Post, March 31, 2020.
Opinion: "Why Incarcerated People Must be Able to Speak Out about Abuse," Jessica L. Adler, The Washington Post, November 15, 2019.
Opinion: "The Veterans Who Fought for — and Won — Government Health Care," Jessica L. Adler, Washington Post, November 11, 2017.
Opinion: "The Grisly Work of VA Secretaries," Jessica L. Adler, The Hill, January 13, 2017.
Opinion: "War Vets Find Solace in Stories of Others," Jessica L. Adler, Miami Herald, November 10, 2015.


"Jail Conditions and Mortality: Death Rates Associated With Turnover, Jail Size, and Population" (with Weiwei Chen). Health Affairs 42, no. 6 (2023).

Discusses how well-founded indictments of inhumane conditions and overcrowding in jails and prisons have long been marshaled to justify calls for more carceral capacity.  Discovers in terms of mortality risk, an underlying cause is a heavy reliance on incarceration: the cycling of people into and out of jails where the impacts of addiction, mental illness, and health inequity can be exacerbated with dire consequences. Concludes in light of this, policymakers should resist devoting more funding to incarceration by curtailing pre-trial detention and providing access to non-carceral community-based social supports, such as mental health and addiction treatment.

"Mediating the Economic Impacts of Military Service: Race and Veterans’ Welfare after the War in Vietnam" in The Military and the Market, edited by Jennifer Mittel and Mark R. Wilson (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022), 150-168.

Discusses that during and after the war in Vietnam, even as the larger social safety net came under siege, multiple stakeholders ensured that the unique circumstances and concerns of Black veterans were publicly acknowledged and addressed. Draws from research produced by economists and sociologists in the 1960s and 1970s about the economic impacts of military service, statements of Black political leaders and activists, and government documents, this chapter shows that efforts to highlight racial inequality in labor market outcomes among Black former service members fostered a shift toward more expansive and egalitarian veterans’ benefits after the war in Vietnam. 

"Help Without Hassles: Instituting Community-Based Care for U.S. Veterans after the War in Vietnam" Bulletin of History of Medicine 95, no. 4 (2021).

Explores conditions undergirding the establishment of the first Vet Centers and the program’s broader implications, as well as the general issue of why public health systems change over time. Highlights dynamics of how the VA gradually “deinstitutionalized” in the mid-twentieth century, it focuses on trends related to war and health, notions of federal responsibility, health activism and rights of people from marginalized groups, and connections between political ideology and medical diagnoses and treatment.

"Transitions in “Privatized” Prison Health Systems: Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations Among Incarcerated People in Florida, 2011–2018" (with Weiwei Chen and Timothy F. Page). American Journal of Public Health (2021).

Examines rates of emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations among incarcerated people in Florida during a period when health care management in the state’s prisons underwent transitions.

"Veterans, Like Other Working-and Middle-Class Americans, Increasingly Rely on Public Health Programs" American Journal of Public Health 108, no. 3 (2018): 298-299.

Highlights research showing that demands on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system have recently escalated, and that VA patients who are low-income, live in rural areas, and lack other sources of coverage get a relatively high percentage of their care from the VA. I propose that the nature and level of demands on the system be thoughtfully considered during policy debates about the VA's challenges.

"To Recognize Those Who Served: Gendered Analyses of Veterans’ Policies, Representations, and Experiences" in The Routledge History of Gender, War, and the U.S. Military, edited by Kara Dixon Vuic (New York: Routledge, 2017), 303-322.

Synthesizes literature regarding how gender shapes veterans' experiences and identities from a policy, health, and social perspective. Examines veterans' organizations, activism, and ideals regarding public commemorations of service.