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Clear, T. R. & Montagnet, C. L. (2020). Impact of incarceration on community public safety and public health. In Improving Public Health Through Correctional Health Care. 2nd ed, Greifinger, R. (ed). NY: Springer.

The purpose of the paper is to provide data and theory to support three propositions:

  • Incarceration rates have grown in concentrated ways, especially effecting poor minority males who come from impoverished neighborhoods.

  • High levels of incarceration, concentrated in impoverished neighborhoods, damage the social capital of those who live there, destabilizing the capacity for informal social control.

  • Reductions in informal social control have devastating consequences for public safety and public health.

The implications of this argument are that incarceration policy in the United States is an obstruction to the well-being of poor, especially minority, communities. With crime rates that have fallen nationally for about a decade, the source of growth in imprisonment is not new felons having committed dangerous crimes, but a largely inexhaustible supply of potential drug felons combined with a system that provokes high rates of failure among those who get caught up in it. This situation suggests that any chance for real reform requires changes in drug law enforcement policy.