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Faculty Advisors

Novisky, Meghan A.

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College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences


Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology


Incarceration is an important social determinant of health. Generally, men and womenwho experience incarceration face elevated risks for physical health issues, infectiousdisease, mental health disorders, homelessness, and unemployment. Yet, while thecriminological literature clearly identifies incarceration as a powerful predictor ofhealth, it is less clear what particular aspects of the prison experience constitute thegreatest challenges for the well-being of the men and women who reside there. Thisstudy involved completing 30 in depth, qualitative interviews with men and womenwho were recently released from state prisons about their incarceration experiences.After a process of open coding, data from these interviews show that, at least amongthis sample, incarcerated men and women are exposed to extreme acts of violence ona regular basis as a result of their incarceration and that access to medical services inprison is heavily stratified. These two areas were particularly stressful for respondentsand contributed to their adjustments not only to prison life, but to the difficulties theyfaced during community re-entry. Findings are consistent with Strain Theory, whichemphasizes the impacts of trauma exposure and other stressful life events on risks forrecidivism. It is suggested that future studies explore trauma exposure and differentialaccess to medical services during incarceration as specific risk factors for healthdisparities and diminished social capital.


Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology

The Impacts of Trauma Exposure and Differential Access to Medical Services on the Incarceration Experience