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February 2017

Breaking the Cycle of Compounded Adversity in the Lives of Institutionalized Youth

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(2):111-113. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.3981

The rate of incarceration in the United States began to markedly increase beginning in the mid-1970s after nearly a century of relative stability, rising 5-fold to more than 750 per 100 000 individuals approximately 35 years later.1 Although there has been a modest decline in the prison population since 2010, the net result is that the United States now holds more prisoners per capita than all other developed countries. The sharp growth in incarceration not only reshaped the adult life course of recent cohorts but it made going to prison an expected transition for African American men with a low educational level.2 The prison boom has also deepened spatial inequality, with poor and African American neighborhoods bearing the disproportionate brunt of high rates of incarceration. These are the same neighborhoods that experienced historically high levels of violence in the 1980s and 1990s, and, in some cities like Chicago, are seeing renewed violence after a period of decline.

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