Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tragedy by Numbers

[posted by Callimachus]

If you're white or Hispanic in America and you get sent to state prison, your life expectancy goes down -- you're more likely to die in the slammer.

If you're black in America, however, prison is statistically safer than home. According to "the first truly detailed analysis of death in U.S. prisons," released earlier this month, "Black Americans are significantly more likely to survive in prison than in their own neighborhoods ...."[1]

While white and Hispanic inmates were slightly more likely to die from disease or violence behind bars, the mortality rate among black state prison inmates was 57 percent lower than their counterparts of similar age on the outside, the study found.

Julian Bond has some pointed comments on it: "It doesn't say anything good about prison. It says everything bad about the neighborhoods." But later he does say, "It's also about the fact these guys have access to health care in prison that they don't have at home."

Typically he focuses on failing schools and lack of jobs, rather than social and cultural factors, or even the pop culture glamorization of drugs and violence in the ghetto from a safe distance (I've seen "Hustle and Flow" showered with accolades and awards, and I've seen the reality around me, which could make a movie called "Rot and Die"). Really its pointless to try to disentangle them, and the conservative and liberal views of why life is so routinely awful for black Americans don't conflict so much as describe different aspects of the same disaster.

[1] "The study examined the deaths of 12,129 inmates over four years, but did not include data from federal prisons or local jails."

Labels: ,