Incarceration in fragile families.

Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course at Yale University, USA.
The Future of Children (Impact Factor: 1.98). 01/2010; 20(2):157-77. DOI: 10.2307/20773699
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since the mid-1970s the U.S. imprisonment rate has increased roughly fivefold. As Christopher Wildeman and Bruce Western explain, the effects of this sea change in the imprisonment rate--commonly called mass imprisonment or the prison boom--have been concentrated among those most likely to form fragile families: poor and minority men with little schooling. Imprisonment diminishes the earnings of adult men, compromises their health, reduces familial resources, and contributes to family breakup. It also adds to the deficits of poor children, thus ensuring that the effects of imprisonment on inequality are transferred intergenerationally. Perversely, incarceration has its most corrosive effects on families whose fathers were involved in neither domestic violence nor violent crime before being imprisoned. Because having a parent go to prison is now so common for poor, minority children and so negatively affects them, the authors argue that mass imprisonment may increase future racial and class inequality--and may even lead to more crime in the long-term, thereby undoing any benefits of the prison boom. U.S. crime policy has thus, in the name of public safety, produced more vulnerable families and reduced the life chances of their children. Wildeman and Western advocate several policy reforms, such as limiting prison time for drug offenders and for parolees who violate the technical conditions of their parole, reconsidering sentence enhancements for repeat offenders, and expanding supports for prisoners and ex-prisoners. But Wildeman and Western argue that criminal justice reform alone will not solve the problems of school failure, joblessness, untreated addiction, and mental illness that pave the way to prison. In fact, focusing solely on criminal justice reforms would repeat the mistakes the nation made during the prison boom: trying to solve deep social problems with criminal justice policies. Addressing those broad problems, they say, requires a greater social commitment to education, public health, and the employment opportunities of low-skilled men and women. The primary sources of order and stability--public safety in its wide sense--are the informal social controls of family and work. Thus, broad social policies hold the promise not only of improving the wellbeing of fragile families, but also, by strengthening families and providing jobs, of contributing to public safety.

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    ABSTRACT: After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of incarceration in the United States more than quadrupled in the past four decades. The Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration in the United States was established under the auspices of the National Research Council, supported by the National Institute of Justice and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to review evidence on the causes and consequences of these high incarceration rates and the implications of this evidence for public policy. Our work encompassed research on, and analyses of, the proximate causes of the dramatic rise in the prison population and the societal dynamics that supported those proximate causes. Our analysis reviewed evidence of the effects of high rates of incarceration on public safety as well as those in prison, their families, and the communities from which these men and women originate and to which they return. We also examined the effects on U.S. society. After assessing the evidence, the committee found that the normative principles that both limit and justify the use of incarceration as a response to crime were a necessary element of the analytical process. Public policy on the appropriate use of prison is not determined solely by weighing evidence of costs and benefits. Rather, a combination of empirical findings and explicit normative commitments is required. Issues regarding criminal punishment necessarily involve ideas about justice, fairness, and just deserts. Accordingly, this report includes a review of established principles of jurisprudence and governance that have historically guided society’s use of incarceration. Finally, we considered the practical implications of our conclusions for public policy and for research.
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives. We examined the association between neighborhood incarceration rate and asthma prevalence and morbidity among New York City adults. Methods. We used multilevel modeling techniques and data from the New York City Community Health Survey (2004) to analyze the association between neighborhood incarceration rate and asthma prevalence, adjusting for individual-level sociodemographic, behavioral, and environmental characteristics. We examined interactions between neighborhood incarceration rate, respondent incarceration history, and race/ethnicity. Results. The mean neighborhood rate of incarceration was 5.4% (range = 2.1%-12.8%). Neighborhood incarceration rate was associated with individual-level asthma prevalence (odds ratio [OR] = 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.03, 1.10) in unadjusted models but not after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics (OR = 1.01; 95% CI = 0.98, 1.04). This association did not differ according to respondent race/ethnicity. Conclusions. Among New York City adults, the association between neighborhood incarceration rate and asthma prevalence is explained by the sociodemographic composition of neighborhoods and disparities in asthma prevalence at the individual level. Public health practitioners should further engage with criminal justice professionals and correctional health care providers to target asthma outreach efforts toward both correctional facilities and neighborhoods with high rates of incarceration. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 14, 2013: e1-e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301255).
    American Journal of Public Health 03/2013; 103(5). DOI:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301255 · 4.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To enhance the understanding of biological mechanisms connecting early adversity and negative health, we examine the association between family interpersonal violence and disruption and telomere length in youth. These specific exposures were selected because of their established links with negative health consequences across the life-course.METHODS: Children, age 5 to 15, were recruited from the greater New Orleans area, and exposure to family disruption and violence was assessed through caregiver report. Telomere length, from buccal cell DNA (buccal telomere length [bTL]), was determined by using monochrome multiplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. The association between bTL and adversity exposure was tested (n = 80).RESULTS: Cumulative exposure to interpersonal violence and family disruption was correlated with bTL. Controlling for other sociodemographic factors, bTL was significantly shorter in children with higher exposure to family violence and disruption. Witnessing family violence exerted a particularly potent impact. A significant gender interaction was found (β = -0.0086, SE = 0.0031, z test= -2.79, P = .0053) and analysis revealed the effect only in girls.CONCLUSIONS: bTL is a molecular biomarker of adversity and allostatic load that is detectable in childhood. The present results extend previous studies by demonstrating that telomeres are sensitive to adversity within the overarching family domain. These findings suggest that the family ecology may be an important target for interventions to reduce the biological impact of adversity in the lives of children.
    PEDIATRICS 06/2014; 134(1). DOI:10.1542/peds.2013-3415 · 5.30 Impact Factor


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