Repeated police contact, profiling and incarceration as catalysts for worsened health
Brinkley-Rubinstein, Lauren Kay
Despite a recent modest decline in the number of individuals incarcerated, the rate of incarceration in America continues to soar. Today, over 7 million people are involved in the criminal justice system including 2.1 million in jails or prisons—representing a nearly 500% increase from 1980. HIV positive individuals are over-represented in the criminal justice system with 17% of those living with HIV entering an American jail at some point in any given year. While much study has been devoted to uncovering the link between incarceration and HIV little is known about how incarceration may impact health. This dissertation focuses on the results of three empirical studies designed to better understand the relationship between the health of HIV positive individuals and the criminal justice system. Findings from these studies suggest that: (a) incarceration has a direct and indirect relationship with self-reported health; (b) lack of access to medical care and medications, loss of social connections, and stigma while incarcerated negatively affect health; (c) proximal indicators of health such as inability to find employment and housing, enduring stigma and a loss of social connections also impacted health post-release; and (d) HIV criminalization and police profiling is both common and harmful to the health of those living with HIV.