Master's Project Title:

Mass Imprisonment and Public Health: The Impact of High Incarceration Rates on Adolescent Health

MCH Student:

Britney Rosenau

Date of Defense:

July 2011


The high rates of incarceration in the United States disproportionately impact minority populations and people living in impoverished, inner-city communities. This disproportionate impact is not only a social injustice, but it may be further contributing to health disparities that exist in the same populations. This paper critically reviews research findings that support a public health view of incarceration and its impacts on the health and healthy development of adolescents. In addition to examining the impact of parental incarceration on children’s health and well-being, this review includes how the communities and neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted by high rates of incarceration are shaping the identity, values, and life-opportunities available to their adolescent residents. The scientific knowledge about children of incarcerated parents is limited and spread across academic disciplines; therefore, a public health approach is presented that bridges literature from criminology, and the social and developmental sciences to identify the problems and present potential solutions to promote the health of adolescents.