Incarceration as a Health Determinant for Sexual Orientation and Gender Minority Persons

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

Incarceration is considerably more prevalent among sexual and gender minority persons (SGM) than among the general population. Once behind bars, they are at the greatest risk for health-related harms.

Although a growing number of studies have assessed health disparities produced by mass incarceration, scholars are yet to systematically assess the health consequences of incarceration on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We invite public health scholars to study the effects of incarceration on health in the SGM population and provide a roadmap to aid these research efforts. First, we document the disproportionate presence of SGM persons in jails and prisons. Second, we note health-related risks that are the most salient for this population. Third, we recommend examining heterogeneity in the effects of incarceration by teasing out distinct risks for groups defined by sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. Fourth, we note methodological challenges with respect to measurement and assessing causality. Finally, we discuss the importance of health care access and quality and the need to study health during incarceration and afterward.

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