Health and incarceration

Assessing the connection between mass incarceration and health

with Alberto Palloni and Jerrett Jones

In light of the expansion of the criminal justice system, researchers have become increasingly interested in the social consequences of incarceration. A line of this research suggests that incarceration has negative implications for individuals’ health and well-being at older ages. However, prior studies are limited in that they have not adequately followed former prisoners over a sufficient time period to determine whether incarceration significantly increases mortality.

This project contributes to this growing literature by employing the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a long longitudinal data resource, to examine the consequences of incarceration for health and mortality. First, we estimate the effect of short and long-term effects of incarceration on mortality and disability over a period of nearly 40 years. Second, we use those estimates and different counterfactual scenarios to assess to what extent mass incarceration contributes to the so called U.S. health disadvantage. This project is funded by the The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), with support from the National Institute on Aging.

Cumulative probability of dying by years since being observed in the panel and incarceration status.

Thanks to an extension of this grant, we are also examining how contextual characteristics influence health and well-being over the life course. For this, we plan to expand the PSID data by merging them with incarceration information from the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP 2000-2014) at the county level, in addition to other crime and arrests data from Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), and socioeconomic information from the American Community Survey (e.g., employment, poverty, health, inequality).