Category Archives: Legal systems and issues
Robert Otto Valdez, PhD, is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) professor of family & community medicine and economics at the University of New Mexico. He serves as executive director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, a national program office for increasing diversity in health and health care leadership. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.
The 140th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), the nation’s oldest gathering of public health professionals in the world, concluded yesterday as the San Francisco region celebrated the World Series victory of their beloved Giants. Close to 13,000 public health professionals came together around the theme, Prevention and Wellness Across the Life Span.
The closing session focused on incarceration, justice, and health with a keynote speech by Angela Davis. Our society has used mandatory sentencing and incarceration of Black and Latino young men and, more recently, immigrants as a form of social control that not only maintains the current social order but also contributes to the inequalities in health that result from inequitable society.
The kinds of mass incarceration costing some $70 to $100 billion a year has produced social inequalities that can be readily seen in the lives and families of the formerly incarcerated. Bruce Western and Becky Pettit offered an insightful article in the Summer 2010 Daedalus that describes the creation of a group of social outcasts “who are joined by the shared experience of incarceration, crime, poverty, racial minority, and low education.” These are all characteristics that contribute to social and economic disadvantage not only for those who were incarcerated but also their families.