Mass incarceration is a public health issue, and policy changes that affect mass incarceration can and should be informed by data related to health outcomes for individuals and communities. Wilderman and Wang (2018) outline the history of mass incarceration in America and analyze the data available on direct and indirect effects of incarceration on health and well-being. They then argue that mass incarceration is a significant contributor to persistent racial health disparities in the United States. They conclude that disproportionate incarceration rates in certain communities undermine the overall health of that community.
HIV criminalization sits at the intersection of the issues discussed in this paper – mass incarceration, racial justice, and public health. HIV criminal laws create yet another layer of marginalization for communities that already are targeted by systems of oppression. More than half of the HIV epidemic in America is concentrated in the South and primarily affects black men, as is true of mass incarceration as well.. This paper suggests that structural inequality creates negative health outcomes not only for the individual being policed or incarcerated, but also for their family and community.