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Incarceration and Your Health

January 7, 2021
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Did you know that one in 20 people in the US will face jail at some point in their lives? Being in jail can cause stress and financial troubles for households. And children of jailed parents are more likely to:

  • Live in poverty or be homeless
  • Be a victim of domestic violence
  • Abuse substances
  • Be incarcerated
  • Experience learning disabilities and speech/language challenges
  • Have developmental delays, attention disorders, and aggressive behaviors

Being in jail can create health issues for people because of:

  • Less access to regular medical checkups for chronic conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, or cancer
  • Lower likelihood of being vaccinated
  • More exposure to infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and COVID-19 due to tight living quarters
  • More mental health stressors and risks
  • Increased violence and physical trauma

It may surprise you to know that being released from prison can present serious difficulties. Essential services like housing and health care are not guaranteed. Job opportunities, relationships with family, and access to mental health services may be challenges.

Mental health is a big issue for many released from prison. Higher rates of suicide and death from conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, cancer, and substance use are common. Social class, financial status, and discriminatory policies targeting people of color could make matters worse. African American and Latinx people combined make up only 28% of the total US adult population. But their incarceration rates were nearly three to six times higher than Whites. Large portions of these communities are suffering from the negative impacts of incarceration.

At Ryan Health, we recognize that health is impacted by many factors. But we see ourselves as more than a health care provider. We want to be sure our patients have access to services to make you healthier and more secure. Our Here For You platform provides links to free services such as job training, housing, food, clothing and more.

Regardless of your circumstances, you have a right to be healthy. Ryan Health wants to make that happen.

If you are interested in learning more about incarceration and health, we have included a list of sources, websites, and articles below.  

1. Incarceration and Health: A Family Medicine Perspective  - American Academy of Family Physicians 

2. From Prisons to Communities: Confronting Re-entry Challenges and Social Inequality - American Psychological Association  

3. Shrinking Gap Between Number of Blacks and Whites in Prison - Pew Research Center 

4. The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons - The Sentencing Project

Contributed by: Addison Brearton, AmeriCorps Outreach & Engagement Specialist and Charlene Kaloki, Community Relations/AmeriCorps Program Coordinator,