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How mass incarceration harms U.S. health, in 5 charts

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.

The only reasonable response is to limit the unnecessary use of incarceration across the board — as lawmakers in New Jersey and Maryland are attempting to do.

Incarceration and health

A majority of those who died were not convicted of any crimes and were being held pretrial, often because they were too poor to afford bail. Those awaiting trial in jail have nearly twice the mortality rate of people who have been convicted and are serving their sentence. This appears to be a testament to the stress associated with being held pretrial.

Perhaps not surprisingly, suicide is the leading cause of mortality in U.S. jails, accounting for 34 percent of all deaths. Again, the vast majority of these individuals have not been convicted of any crime. Suicide rates among incarcerated individuals are three to four times higher than the general public.

Source: Salon: in-depth news, politics, business, technology & culture > Politics

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