Incarceration and the Health of the African American Community

TitleIncarceration and the Health of the African American Community
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSchnittker, Jason, Michael Massoglia, and Christopher Uggen
JournalDu Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
ISBN Number1742-058X
AbstractThis 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.