Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bulging Prison System Called Massive Intervention In American Family Life

Date:
August 6, 2008
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
The mammoth increase in the United States' prison population since the 1970s is having profound demographic consequences that disproportionately affect black males.

The mammoth increase in the United States' prison population since the 1970s is having profound demographic consequences that disproportionately affect black males.

"This jump in incarceration rates represents a massive intervention in American families at a time when the federal government was making claims that it was less involved in their lives," according to a University of Washington researcher who will present findings Sunday (Aug. 3) at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Drawing data from a variety of sources that looked at prison and general populations, Becky Pettit, a UW associate professor of sociology, and Bryan Sykes, a UW post-doctoral researcher, found that the boom in prison population is hiding lowered rates of fertility and increased rates of involuntary migration to rural areas and morbidity that is marked by a greater exposure to and risk of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV or AIDS.

These effects are most heavily felt by low-skill black males, and she said the disproportionately high incarceration rates among African-Americans suggest the prison system is a key suspect in these demographic results.

Pettit said well-documented facts – one in 100 Americans is behind bars in 2008, about 2.4 million people currently are incarcerated and nearly 60 percent of young black males who dropped out of high school have served time in jail – don't seem to register with Americans.

"These kinds of rates were not historically true 30 years ago. Today, we are giving people custodial sentences that we wouldn't have in the past for victimless crimes. Our justice system has become more punitive," she said, adding that most demographic data collection is decades behind the times and masks this racial disproportionality. That's because most surveys, which are federally funded, were begun in the 1960s and 70s and excluded the prison population, which was significantly smaller at that time.

In addition, she noted that the effects of an ever-growing criminal justice system extend beyond those who are serving sentences to include children, partners and even entire communities. Among the findings outlined in Pettit's presentation are:

  • Rates of positive or latent tuberculosis are 50 percent to 100 percent higher for inmates than for the general population. The TB rate among black inmates is 14.6 percent compared to 8.4 percent for white inmates. Despite substantial declines in the overall risk for TB in the U.S., blacks are eight times more likely to contract the disease than whites.
  • Blacks both inside and out of prison have higher rates of HIV infection than whites. Inmate rates for HIV are 3.5 percent for blacks and 2.3 percent for whites, although Pettit said this data is weak because many inmates have not been tested for HIV or will not say if they are HIV positive.
  • The number of black men living in rural, or non-metropolitan, areas increases dramatically when the inmate population is included because many jails and prisons are located in rural locations.
  • Rates of childlessness are higher for both black and white inmates than the general population. Sixty-four percent of non-prison white men have children, but that number drops to 50.6 percent of jailed white men. Among blacks, 71.7 percent of the non-prison men have children while 61.7 percent of those in jail are fathers.

The survey focused on African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites because earlier surveys did not collect data about such groups as Hispanics or Asian-Americans or because the sample sizes from these groups were too small to draw valid statistical judgments. The study also only looked at men between the ages of 25 and 44 and broke them into three groups – high school dropouts, high school graduates and those with a college degree or some college education

Pettit said she hopes her work can be a springboard for better and more inclusive data collection that paints a more accurate demographic picture of the U.S. population.

"We usually don't think of the prison system as something that is a policy shift. But the public health risks and the effects on migration and fertility show that it has had fundamental consequences for all of us," she said.

"It is in our own self-interest to be concerned. And certainly from a fiscal standpoint we have an interest. In times of financial difficulty, we have a fixed amount of money and for every dollar we spend on incarceration we have one dollar less to spend on education and other things. This is a challenging public policy question."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Bulging Prison System Called Massive Intervention In American Family Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080804100525.htm>.
University of Washington. (2008, August 6). Bulging Prison System Called Massive Intervention In American Family Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080804100525.htm
University of Washington. "Bulging Prison System Called Massive Intervention In American Family Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080804100525.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins