Evelyn J. Patterson
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Affiliated Faculty, Centers for Medicine, Health and Society and Society for the Study of Democratic Institutions
Health Policy Associate
Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College
What is the relationship between inequality, the criminal justice system, and social and health related disparities?
Freedom is not merely a discrete position, but can change over the life course. I frame my work in this manner, delimiting four particular life states: free, incarcerated, paroled, and freed (free, but previously incarcerated). This emphasizes that events, such as contact with the judicial system, can alter life trajectories and, furthermore they can lead to life-lasting consequences including transmission of sexually transmitted and airborne infections and disenfranchisement. These factors have long-term implications not only for individuals, but also families, communities, and American society.
A demographic lens allows a more nuanced understanding of the large changes that pushed the United States to supersede all other nations in the number of citizens it incarcerates. My explorations are rooted in trying to understand how the intersection of demography, the study of populations, and criminology can help explain social, health, and economic experiences of different groups in America. My unpacking of this focuses on several different themes: the influence of prison on different health outcomes; racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in mortality; the integration of demographic methods to assess and refine measures utilized to describe the influence of population dynamics on these disparities; and the interrogation of how the criminal justice system contributes to inequalities in the United States.