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Am J Public Health. 2008 Sep;98(9 Suppl):S185-90.

Criminal (in)justice in the city and its associated health consequences.

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  • 1Dept of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The American system of prisons and prisoners-described by its critics as the prison-industrial complex-has grown rapidly since 1970. Increasingly punitive sentencing guidelines and the privatization of prison-related industries and services account for much of this growth. Those who enter and leave this system are increasingly Black or Latino, poorly educated, lacking vocational skills, struggling with drugs and alcohol, and disabled. Few correctional facilities mitigate the educational and/ or skills deficiencies of their inmates, and most inmates will return home to communities that are ill equipped to house or rehabilitate them. A more humanistic and community-centered approach to incarceration and rehabilitation may yield more beneficial results for individuals, communities, and, ultimately, society.

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