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INCARCERATION AND THE HEALTH OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2011

Jason Schnittker*
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Massoglia
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University
Christopher Uggen
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
*
Jason Schnittker, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 3718 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6299. E-mail: jschnitt@ssc.upenn.edu

Abstract

This article reviews evidence linking incarceration and health, with a particular focus on African Americans, who are disproportionately affected by the incarceration system. Although inmates generally suffer from worse health than comparable, non-institutionalized adults, this comparison is not uniformly the case, and some of the strongest negative effects of incarceration emerge after release, suggesting that the struggles of reintegration into society are as important as the conditions of incarceration. We review evidence for the basic relationship between incarceration and health from individual-level and aggregate-level studies, as well as from evidence and speculation regarding potential mediating mechanisms. Many questions remain regarding these mechanisms and, by extension, which policies are most promising for reducing incarceration's impact on health. Among other issues, the incarceration-health connection also raises fundamental questions regarding the level of harm society is willing to accept as part of routine punishment for criminal behavior.

Type
Unpacking Racism and its Health Consequences
Copyright
Copyright © W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research 2011

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Footnotes

1

This research funded in part by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research to Schnittker and Uggen. We thank Sarah Shannon for helpful comments on an earlier draft.

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