The Devastating Effects of Incarceration on Physical and Mental Health

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Being healthy is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complete wellbeing of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Our health is greatly affected by our environment and surroundings. Incarceration affects the health of individuals who have been in prison, as well as their family members. The outcomes of incarceration are unfortunate and devastating. At present, we can say that incarceration is definitively not distributed evenly across different races. There are more people from minority groups behind bars than people from the majority group.

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There is a substantial racial imbalance when it comes to incarceration. The majority of prisoners are either Black or Latino.

When we examine this correlation more deeply, there are many sociological factors that influence this racial imbalance. Poverty, crime, and race are major components that help us understand this correlation better. In my view, the general health of the public should not be affected based on their race or their past history. The rising rate of incarceration in the United States does create racial disparities. People from minority groups are more likely to suffer from health issues due to prevailing biases in healthcare. Inmates are exposed to diseases such as HIV. Chronic pain is also an outcome of the harsh treatment that inmates face in prison. All these problems need to be addressed to improve conditions for inmates; however, those from minority groups have limited access to healthcare. One of the factors leading to poor health among these groups is inadequate housing.

Coming from a minority group, I understand how greatly health can be impacted by where one lives. For example, the hospitals available in poorer neighborhoods are not sophisticated enough to provide the care that patients need. Some people can’t afford insurance and, therefore, are unable to receive medical help when it’s necessary. They may ignore common symptoms of serious diseases because of financial problems. In healthcare settings, patients from minority groups often face racial discrimination compared to their white counterparts. Incarceration affects larger family units in multiple ways. When a parent of minor children is in prison, the children tend to struggle with social and health issues. For instance, if a parent of children under eighteen is in prison, the children may face academic challenges.

They will struggle to concentrate on their education while worrying about their imprisoned parent. When a parent is released from prison, he or she may have difficulty finding employment due to an incarceration history. This challenge can be even greater if they’re from a minority group. Unemployment leads to a scarcity of food and other basic needs, which makes it difficult for children to have resources necessary for success in life. In conclusion, life can be highly challenging for incarcerated individuals as well as their family members, especially those from minority groups. Problems in the healthcare system can be solved when we treat everyone equally and fairly.

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The Devastating Effects of Incarceration on Physical and Mental Health. (2023, Mar 17). Retrieved from