Race, criminalization and urban mental health in the United States

By John R. Pamplin II, Nora Clancy Kelsall, Katherine M. Keyes, Lisa M. Bates and Seth J. Prinsa in Decarceral public health

May 1, 2023


May 1, 2023


12:00 AM


Purpose of review As efforts to increase policing and roll back criminal legal system reforms in major U.S. cities rise, the collateral consequences of increased criminalization remain critical to document. Although the criminalization of mental illness has been well studied in the U.S., the mental health effects of criminalization are comparatively under-researched. In addition, despite extreme racial disparities in U.S. policing, there is limited understanding of how criminalization may contribute to racial disparities in mental health. Recent findings Literature included in this review covers various types of criminalization, including direct and indirect impacts of incarceration, criminalization of immigration, first-hand and witnessed encounters with police, and the effects of widely publicized police brutality incidents. All forms of criminalization were shown to negatively impact mental health (depression, anxiety and suicidality), with evidence suggestive of disproportionate impact on Black people. Summary There is evidence of significant negative impact of criminalization on mental health; however, more robust research is needed to address the limitations of the current literature. These limitations include few analyses stratified by race, a lack of focus on nonincarceration forms of criminalization, few longitudinal studies limiting causal inference, highly selected samples limiting generalizability and few studies with validated mental health measures.

Posted on:
May 1, 2023
1 minute read, 201 words
Decarceral public health
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