Incarceration as Determinant of Poor Health Outcomes

Authored by: Jason M. Williams , Carrie Bergeson

Men’s Health Equity

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138052963
eBook ISBN: 9781315167428
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315167428-11

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Abstract

Although male incarceration rates have leveled out over recent years, the United States still has the highest incarceration rate of any similarly situated country (Rich, Wakeman, & Dickman, 2011). In terms of incarceration rates (i.e., people in prison, local jails, federal prisons, and other systems of confinement), the United States has the highest (698 per 100,000) in the world (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018; World Prison Brief, 2018). The incarceration rates of some other countries include the following: El Salvador (614), Cuba (510), Thailand (484), Brazil (325), Israel (265), Iraq (126), China (118), Canada (114), France (102), Denmark (59), Ghana (49), and India (33; Wagner & Sawyer, 2018; World Prison Brief, 2018). As of 2015, the United States had an estimated 6.7 million individuals within adult correctional authorities (Kaeble & Bonczar, 2016; Kaeble & Glaze, 2016). Furthermore, about 1 in 53 adults in the United States was on probation, parole, or other postprison supervision (Kaeble & Glaze, 2016). Evidence regarding incarceration’s adverse effects on individual life trajectory and overall family well-being continues to show consistent negative outcomes (Freudenberg, 2001; London & Myers, 2006; Roberts, 2004; Wildeman & Western, 2010). Additionally, those who are incarcerated are among the most medically underserved populations within Western society (Cloud, Parsons & Delany-Brumsey, 2014). Access to healthcare is constitutionally mandated for those incarcerated, yet the quality of healthcare within jails and prisons continues to stagger far behind standards of care outside the prison system. Overcrowding, poor nutrition, unsanitary conditions, and solitary confinement are just a few examples of the unhealthy environments males are exposed to during incarceration. These conditions are detrimental to individuals’ physical, mental, and emotional health. As such, these health concerns have major implications beyond just the incarcerated individual (i.e., partners, children, extended family, friends, communities, and society at large) and warrant immediate attention.

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