There’s little doubt among researchers that mass incarceration is wreaking havoc on our society, in particular on people of color, LGBTQ, and the poor. What’s often overlooked in this discussion is the damage that prisons and jails do to our health—from those who are incarcerated to their family members waiting at home to those who work in detention settings.
As researchers and advocates, we have studied mass incarceration issues and started discussions on the ethics of this practice. To us, the evidence is clear: Mass incarceration is a public health scourge in the U.S.
Family and employees
It’s not just the incarcerated individual who suffers.
Over half of people behind bars are parents. Most incarcerated mothers were primary caregivers to minor childrenbefore their incarceration.
An estimated 2.7 million U.S. children have an incarcerated parent. Having a parent incarcerated is considered to be an “adverse childhood experience.” This is linked to multiple negative health outcomes throughout life, including poor mental health, substance abuse, disease, disability, and even early death.
Children with an incarcerated household member are also likelier to experience poor mental and physical health in adulthood.
To read more of Emily Nagisa Keehn and J. Wesley Boyd's article, please click here.