Health : Correctional Health

While conducting research and gathering information on Health Disparities and Correctional Health, I came across information that I believe is important for everyone to know.

Most alarming are the differences in incarceration by race. Blacks are incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white non-Hispanic males and 2.6 times higher than Hispanic males.

The majority of all inmates have been imprisoned as a result of the “war on drugs” and the “tough on crime” criminal justice policies. These policies have resulted in the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate in the world and have impacted us all, but the greatest long-term impact has been felt on the black community. In the United States in 2009, over 7.2 million people were under some form of correctional supervision including Probation, Prison, Jail and Parole. Additionally, there are estimated to be more than 16 million felons and ex-felons in the United States which represents 7.5% of the entire adult population, 22.3% of the black adult population, and an astounding 33.4% of the black adult male population.

These numbers are staggering and they matter to us all. Depending on their state of residence, these individuals may lose parental rights, the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to hold public office. In many states, their criminal history is public record and is readily searchable for anyone who wants to know.

There are life long consequences to the health of individuals and communities, that go far beyond the results that are related to the potential political consequences of incarceration, outcomes that are worthy of discussion.

What does it mean to the mental health and the social norms of a community and its individuals when a significant portion of the men in the community are arrested and imprisoned? What happens to long-term relationships such as husband and wife, father and son when the man of the house is incarcerated or re- incarcerated? Consider, that more than 7% of African American children currently have an incarcerated parent, with a far greater number who have parents that are ex-prisoners, ex-felons, and felons currently serving sentences outside of prison.

There are many health outcomes as a result of incarnation. For example, the correctional commission estimates that over 20% of all individuals in the United States infected with HIV and close to 40% of individuals infected with hepatitis C pass through correctional institutions in a given year. Out breaks of tuberculosis have been traced to correctional facilities (with the rates of tuberculosis in Rikers Island reported to be higher than the rates in many third world countries).

There is much more that can be said on the topic, but there are two conclusions that one significant study has made that are worth quoting and concluding this post: Incarceration has significant long-term effects on physical health, and incarceration plays a role in perpetuating racial inequalities in health.

What are your thoughts?


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  1. Joraleithan

    While I thank you for mentioning this, to be honest, this is nothing new. It’s sad that this information is being pushed forth as something new and that such an injustice has been done to men of color but these numbers were pretty much the same 12 years ago when I was studying criminal justice and for the exact same reasons.

    Not shooting the messenger here, mind. But regurgitation of data that’s already been reported either empirically or anecdotally does nothing to actually address the racial disparities.

  2. Yungobruh

    Thanks for bringing up this topic Stephan and putting this information out there. More people need to be educated about this crisis because the more people know about it the better the chance there is that it can be corrected. I as an African-American man am fully aware of it. Another aspect that contributes to the incarceration disparity is that there is money in incarceration. it’s the prison industrial complex. Prisons, local jails and probation are privately run industries now. The companies make their money by locking people up and African-American men are the greatest victims. A judge was discovered earlier this year to have been incarcerating Black youth and receiving kickbacks for it. I’m glad a serious discussion about incarceration is included on a gay site too. Too often talk of prison is in some homo-erotic porn format instead of discussing it as a serious intellectual topic. (We’re growing up!) LOL

  3. Joe Thomure

    Here in the USA we have the FREEDOM of choice. When people make the wrong choice sometimes they end up in jail.We are adults and must take responsibilty for our actions. If you abide by the law you do not have to worry about going to jail.

  4. Alexdagrate84

    I can agree and will see this as fact, though the main issue is whether the incarcerated brought it upon themselves? Everyman regardless of race or creed, and what others think, has an opportunity to better himself. I grew up in a Hispanic family where a majority of my family would be in trouble and friends and relatives were incarcerated yet I am a law enforcement officer. The hard fact is on this case that those that are incarcerated have a better health care system and free medical and dental than the poorest in our country. My grandmother for instance has worked her entire life and still pays a majority of her social security check to supplement her Medicare. This Is the reason I do not and will not sympathize with those that are encarcerated. What are we to do just allow these people that commit crimes to run loose? I don’t think so. I guess we can just put my grandmother in jail.

  5. ted

    if you don’t want to be incarcerated, dont break the law. lets look at another statistic. over 99 percent of people in prison either broke the law or plead guilty to breaking the law. black,.white yellow green brown or pink, veru few,people in prison are innocent in the laws eye. what is alarming is the few people who are innocent in there. the kustice system is broken, however i dont think its a race issue in a majority of cases.

  6. M

    The number of right-wingers posting is telling of this issue. The so-called criminal “justice” system is anything but just. The wrong-wingers and their mad (madly expensive, and a complete failure) “war on drugs” is so largely responsible. As a sane poster above said I quote “there is money in incarceration. it’s the prison industrial complex. Prisons, local jails and probation are privately run industries now. The companies make their money by locking people up and African-American men are the greatest victims. A judge was discovered earlier this year to have been incarcerating Black youth and receiving kickbacks for it.”
    There was another huge scandal in PA. not long back where a couple judges were doing the same thing, except in the juvenile court system, and they at least were grabbing kids of any color. This is all a huge disgrace and people should be protesting it. There needs to be an end to this insanity. The wrong-wingers need to stop worshiping fascist policies and the jack-booted enforcers of them and actually open their eyes try thinking for themselves instead of following like sheep their so-called leaders and their law-and-order sound-bites.

  7. bigem196

    it seems that some of your topics are far too heavy for most of your readers; most of us are happiest when “dic” is the subject. lol, but on the serious side, the very laws that we are subject to are not applied to the races justly and fairly according to the crime; we, as blacks, know that we are given stricter punishments for the same crimes, so your last statement is true in many instances in this country. just being real.

  8. bigem196

    oh, by the way, Alexdagrate84, your grandmother would be better off in jail if she pays more then half of her social security check to supplement her medicare. you have given testament to the good health care that the incarcerates recieve and they house and feed them (nothing but the best accommodations and food, i’m sure) too. I’m sure by you being a gay law officer, i’m guessing that your gay, that you could pull a few strings to get her in one of these fine institutions. she could save all of her check for the tax payer pays the bill.

  9. Joraleithan

    Mark made the comment “Blacks do 6 times the crime of whites. Moral of the stroy for all is don’t do the crime.”

    WTF? How about a few words… “Wall Street” “Bernie Madoff” “Toyota” and a host of others.

    An assertion that one racial group does more crime than the other speaks to a lack of being in touch with the real world. That’s like saying that more blacks are on the welfare system than whites when that is patently untrue and has been untrue for a while.

    Crime is crime, no matter how you slice it. The disparity comes where a young black or latino can be put in jail for a significant part of their lives for carrying a few grams of marijuana but the Bernie Madoffs and Martha Stewarts can commit crimes to the tune of millions of dollars, yet get house arrest or a couple of years in a federal prison then get out and it’s back to business as usual.

    This is Exhibit A for the issue of disparity between the races.

  10. James Castle

    I have no sympathy. I’ve been assaulted and robbed twice by african americans once in a grocery store parking lot and while riding my bike. If they want the stereotyping to stop, it’s all up to them to act like respectable human beings.

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