Get the full slide deck [HERE]
Mass incarceration is one of the most pressing social problems of our time, and has significant consequences for public health. People caught in the policy of mass incarceration are subject to entrenched racial disparities, poverty, under-education, bleak job and housing prospects, and health issues like HIV, hepatitis C, substance use, and mental illness. While the United States now incarcerates a higher raw number (~2.3 million) of individuals than any other country in the world, and has an incarceration rate second only to Seychelles, most people under correctional supervision are actually living in the community on probation or parole (~4.9 million). The policy of mass incarceration began after crime rates had dropped steadily after the Second World War. Policymakers had even recommended that President Nixon institute a freeze on any new prison construction for 10 years. Violent and non-violent crimes have continued to decline during the policy of mass incarceration (and mass incarceration did not play a role in this decline). Corrections spending (now at $68 billion per year) increased 300% over the past 20 years, outpacing education, transportation, and public assistance. Yet, recidivism rates have remained stable, with most people reoffending within three years of release from jail or prison. Since most people sent to prison are eventually released, and most “corrections” actually happens in the community, it’s crucial that social epidemiologists and public health professionals recognize that the health of people in jails and prisons and on probation and parole is a component of public health, and is intertwined with many of the other “exposures” that social epidemiologists study, including race, poverty, gender, neighborhoods, education, and so on. The health, social, political, and economic impact of mass incarceration on families and communities is difficult to overstate.
– Text and slide deck by Seth Prins, PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of public Health