In their article, Wildeman and Wang (2017) aimed to examine how mass incarceration influences health inequality. The problem for analysis emerged as a result of the issue that the USA is a global leader in the rates of population incarceration, which affects Black populations the most (Nellis, 2021). Individuals who get incarcerated at any point in their lives are disproportionately in poor health before, during, and after incarceration. Moreover, experiencing incarceration is linked with adverse mental and physical health outcomes as well as elevated risks of mortality and morbidity. In addition, while physical health may improve temporarily during a person’s placement at a correctional facility, the health appears to deteriorate after release.
Key Points and Concepts
The critical point to underline from the research is that the uneven distribution of incarceration among the population in terms of racial and ethnic distribution contributes to health disparities. Therefore, the criminal justice system has become an institution that is reflective of institutional and systematic racism and exacerbates inequalities. This means that a deep understanding of the adverse health consequences of mass incarceration is imperative for making changes in the criminal justice system requiring investment in improved data. Specialists must pay attention to conducting regular national health surveys and connecting administrative data about incarceration with relevant data on income, housing, employment, education, and health outcomes. The findings also show that social and health workers should invest in a host of experiments that test interventions for mitigating the adverse direct and indirect health effects of incarceration and community corrections. It is imperative that the system, aware of the health disparities brought by imprisonment, implements interventions in the non-imprisonment area. Finally, it is essential to consider whether the varied processing within the criminal justice system of individuals with mental health challenges, which could have been the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior.
Implications to Public Health Policy and Practice and Personal Opinion
In terms of the implications for public health policy, the article points to the importance of reconsidering the current approach within the criminal justice system when it comes to vulnerable and at-risk populations. Besides reconsidering interventions, it is also imperative to conduct practical steps in data collection since improved data can help understand how mass incarceration has enabled health inequality and contributed to the ongoing damage and the effects it has caused (Li, 2018). Personally, I agree with the article because, as researchers and public health professionals, we should be significantly engaged in the conversation about the connections between institutionalized racism, health, and social control.
The strength of the article lies in the comprehensive overview of the adverse health effects of incarceration, including both direct and indirect consequences. Besides the overview, the researchers offer next steps and implications for practice, which can significantly reduce the negative impact of incarcerations for both the mental and physical health of at-risk groups. The attention to the racial and ethnic disparities in health is imperative because it can help address the health implications of living in the US. The limitation of the article lies in the disadvantages of qualitative research that relies on PubMed, PsychInfo, and Google Scholar as sources of data. The sole focus on the US is understandable; it could have been useful to provide examples of criminal justice systems in other countries that emphasized the role of correctional work over-incarceration.
Nellis, A. (2021). The color of justice: Racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons. Web.
Wildeman, C., & Wang, E. A. (2017). Mass incarceration, public health, and widening inequality in the USA. Lancet, 389, 1464-1474.