The Returning Body: On Health Inequities and Prison Reentry

Authors: Dirk Kinsey*, Temple University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Urban Geography, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: health disparities, social reproduction, biosocial theory, incarceration,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Each year, approximately 9 million people are released from jails and 600,000 are released from state and federal prisons across the U.S. In addition to social, economic and political marginalization, formerly incarcerated people face a variety of chronic health conditions, infectious diseases, substance use disorders, and mental illnesses at rates much higher than the general population. Moreover, the burden of these health inequities is shared directly and indirectly by the communities to which they return. The pathways by which incarceration and reentry policies contribute to inequities in individual and community health are legion, while the burden of care for reentry populations is shouldered disproportionately by the families and communities of those returning. This paper seeks to position these pathways within two distinct, but interrelated theoretical framings; 1) the uneven distribution of state and capital involvement in processes of social reproduction, and 2) "biosocial" approaches centered on the mutability and social production of bodies in relation to space. I argue the racialized nature of incarceration in the U.S. means the burden of poor health and well-being falls on communities of color, marking reentry as a key cite in a process whereby biological notions of difference become manifest in the material world, producing actual biological difference in the forms of health disparities.

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