Prison as an environmental pathogen

Authored by: Sytske Besemer , Joseph Murray

The Routledge International Handbook of Biosocial Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415722131
eBook ISBN: 9781315858449
Adobe ISBN: 9781317936749


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Considering the unprecedented number of incarcerated people in the United States, prison is a social pathogen that cannot be ignored when discussing biosocial influences on crime across the life-course. Mass incarceration is an embedded part of American society. One in every 99 Americans is currently in prison and, excluding children and the elderly, nearly one in 50 people is behind bars on any one day (Tonry, 2001; Johnson, 2005; Gottschalk, 2006; Warren, 2008; Walmsley, 2011). In this chapter we discuss how prison could act as an environmental pathogen on incarcerated individuals as well as on their children. We discuss theories and the latest empirical research on how prison might impact on individuals’ reoffending and their children’s criminal behavior. Does prison reduce or increase reoffending? Does parental incarceration increase the risks for children’s own offending?

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