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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Released prisoners are more likely to suffer early death

From the 13 May press release at Georgia State News

Men who have been incarcerated and released are more than twice as likely to die prematurely as those who have not been imprisoned, according to a new study published by Georgia State University criminologist William Alex Pridemore.

Portrait of William Alex Pridemore

Former prisoners are more likely to die early from infectious and respiratory diseases, drug overdoses and homicides. Causes of this “mortality penalty” include increased exposure to diseases like TB and HIV, the prolonged stress of the prison environment, the disruption of important social bonds and, upon release, the struggle to reintegrate into society and employment.

“We know that stress can weaken immune systems,” Pridemore said. “And in a very unpleasant twist of events, at the precise moment when these men are most vulnerable to a compromised immune system due to stress – that is, when they are incarcerated – they are most exposed to a host of communicable diseases whose rates are much higher in the prison population.”

Pridemore’s empirical analysis of the Izhevsk (Russia) Family Study, was published online this month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Titled “The Mortality Penalty of Incarceration: Evidence from a Population-based Case-control Study of Working Age Males,” it is among the first sociological studies to look at the short- and long-term impacts of incarceration on the mortality of prisoners after their release.

More than 2.5 million people are incarcerated in the United States – 95 percent of whom will eventually be released. Incarceration rates in the United States and Russia, at 730 and 519 per 100,000 residents, are among the highest in the world.

MEDIA CONTACT

Jennifer French Giarratano
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“Earlier research looked at the collateral consequences of mass imprisonment that started in the 1970s, when the U.S. went on an incarceration binge. Most focused on incarceration’s limits on job prospects and earnings, marriages and its impact on communities,” he said. “Now research is turning to its impact on health.

“Ironically, prisons provide an opportunity to screen and treat a population that may be unlikely or unable to take advantage of community-based health care,” he continued. “Prisons should work with inmates, prior to their release, and provide health screenings and treatment and help them plan for their short-term and long-term health care needs. This investment will benefit not only the individual health of current and former prisoners, but also taxpayers and the broader community by way of improved population health.

Pridemore’s findings are timely given the recent release of the National Research Council’s report, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, which has politicians and the public reconsidering mass incarceration.

“Careful research shows that many of the consequences of contact with the penal system – especially the mortality penalty of incarceration – go well beyond what we consider just punishment,” he said.
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William Alex Pridemore is a Distinguished University Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. His research focuses on the social structure and violence and the sociology of health.

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May 14, 2014 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Incarceration’s contribution to infant mortality (and related note to a local “no to war on drugs event”/ Mexican Caravan For Peace)

Yesterday I participated in a walk drawing attention to the failures in the US and Mexico’s failed drug policies.
The participants (about 100) were mainly folks from the Caravan For Peace Campaign which is winding its way from
Tijuana through the US and ending up in Washington DC.
[See related news stories, blog items, and photos below]***

It was heartbreaking to talk a bit with the Mexicans, many who held small signs with pictures of their murdered family members/friends. Most had just disappeared…all because of drug related violence.

I’ve always believed our (US) War on Drugs is failing miserably, our skyrocketing incarceration rate is not solving anything.
In fact, it is having terrible consequences, including adverse health effects including greater susceptibility to disease, stress, and increased risk for infant mortality.

To be honest, I am not sure what the answer is.
Prohibition isn’t working, but I am very unsure about legalization.
Perhaps a fresh new way to address this as a health issue and not a criminal issue.
When I walked and listened to these people, I know that somehow, some way, I just have to get involved.
These people, too, are my community.

From the 27 August 2012 blog post at Family Inequality

recent study in the journal Social Problems by sociologist Chistopher Wildemanshows that America’s practice of mass incarceration may be exacerbating both infant mortality in general and stubborn racial inequality in infant mortality in particular.

Drawing on recent literature by himself and others, Wildeman spells out the case for incarceration’s negative effect on family economies, including: lost earnings and financial contributions from fathers, the expensive burden of maintaining the relationship with an incarcerated parent, and the lost value of the incarcerated parent’s unpaid labor. All of those costs may take a toll on mothers’ health, which is the primary cause of infant mortality.

In addition, family members of incarcerated parents may contract infectious diseases, experience significant stress, and lose support networks — all taking an additional health toll.

Sure enough, his analysis of data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System confirms that children born into families in which a parent has been incarcerated are more likely to die in the first year of life. The association may not be causal, but it holds with a lot of important control variables.

Does this increase racial inequality? Probably, because parental incarceration is so concentrated among Black families, as Wildeman and Bruce Western reported previously (my graph of their numbers):

To make the connection to racial inequality explicit, Wildeman moves to compare states over time, on the suspicion that incarceration could increase infant mortality rates, and racial inequality in infant mortality rates. That could be because concentrated incarceration undermines community support and income, people with felony records often are disenfranchised (so the political system can ignore their needs), and the costs of incarceration crowd out more beneficial spending that could improve community health.

The results of a lot of fancy statistical models comparing states show that:

the imprisonment rate is positively and significantly associated with the total infant mortality rate, the black infant mortality rate, and the black-white gap in the infant mortality rate.

It’s an impressive article on an important subject, one that thankfully is attracting more attention from good scholars.

I previously reported on Wildeman’s work on how the drug war affect families, here.

***

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Jailed Dads Tied to Greater Risk of Kids’ Drug Use

Kids whose dads have put in time behind bars may be at a greater risk for using marijuana and other illegal drugs, according to a new study

From an October 20 Reuters Health Information press release

By Lynne Peeples

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Kids whose dads have put in time behind bars may be at a greater risk for using marijuana and other illegal drugs, according to a new study.

The incarcerated population of the U.S. has grown from 250,000 in the mid-1970s to about 2.25 million today. Rising alongside has been the number of kids growing up with a parent that has served jail time: now about 7.5 million.

In other words, one out of every eight young people in the U.S. now has a father that has been incarcerated, notes lead researcher Michael E. Roettger, formerly of Bowling Green State University in Ohio and now at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“In the context of the massive increases in incarceration in the U.S. and growing number of children being affected, we wanted to know what issues these children would likely face,” Roettger told Reuters Health. “It appears that drug use is one of the unintended consequences of these rising rates.”

Already on the troubling list, he added, were increased risks for mental health problems, criminal behavior, dropping out of high school, family instability and poverty

To determine the extent of the role a father’s incarceration might play in youth drug use, Roettger and his colleagues looked at data from about 150,000 young men and women followed from adolescence into early adulthood during the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample beginning in 1995.

The team found that over half of young men and 39 percent of young women who had a father with a history of incarceration reported using marijuana, compared to 38 and 28 percent of young men and women whose fathers never went to jail.

This unfortunate group also used marijuana more frequently and continued using it longer into adulthood.

 

 

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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