SYRACUSE, NY - According to a study, black men are half as likely to die in prison than if they are free.
The authors of the study, set to be published in the Annals of Epidemiology, claim that easier access to healthcare, protection from drugs and alcohol, and the ability to avoid deadly Black-on-Black violence leads to a longer lifespan for those who are incarcerated. African-American males are the only group for which these facts hold true, according to the authors of the study.
The authors of the research also claim that the study reflects a pattern that those from disadvantaged groups live longer in prison primarily because they are protected from violent injuries and murder that can happen on the outside.
"Ironically, prisons are often the only provider of medical care accessible by these underserved and vulnerable Americans," said Hung-En Sung of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"Typically, prison-based care is more comprehensive than what inmates have received prior to their admission," Sung, who wasn’t involved in the new study, said to Reuters Health.
The study examined 100,000 men between the ages of 20 and 79 being held in North Carolina prisons between 1995 and 2005. Sixty percent of the men being examined were African-American. The authors found that while in prison, the death rate between Whites and Blacks was the same. But outside of prison, Black males were far more likely to die than Whites.
"What’s very sad about this is that if we are able to all of a sudden equalize or diminish these health inequalities that you see by race inside a place like prison, it should also be that in places like a poor neighborhood we should be able to diminish these sort of inequities," said Evelyn Patterson, who studies correctional facilities at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
"If it can be done (in prison), then certainly it can happen outside of prison," Patterson said to Reuters Health.
Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University says, "This study made my stomach turn. Dying and going to prison are among the easiest things for a Black man to do in a world where it’s easier for him to get a gun than a good public school education. Most interesting is that Black male political power is so weak that politicians in Washington have almost no incentive to pay attention to the crises occurring within our communities.
Watkins offers advice on what to do. "Raise your boys differently. If we allow our sons to be raised in a world where every song on the radio tells them to become the next Lil Wayne and every television commercial persuades them to be LeBron James, we’ll end up with a teenage boy who’s been wired to walk right into the traps that have been laid out for him."
Watkins continues, "Black men must take responsibility for one another. Not only should Black males work for continuous consciousness and awareness of the manner by which their psyches have been hijacked, but we must challenge one another to think differently about how we perceive education, fatherhood, community leadership, etc."
Watkins doesn't stop there, "Politicians must be held accountable at all costs. Without pointing fingers at any specific politician, the degree to which Black male inequality is allowed to fester is sickening, insulting and un-American. Inequality in hiring, education, and criminal justice creates situations where even well-intended Black males have their dreams eaten up by institutionalized racism."
Watkins concludes by saying, "Black men, to some extent, are America’s cockroaches – our lives are deemed to be less valuable and our concerns less relevant. Any politician who buys into this rhetoric and shows inaction on such disturbing racial inequality does not deserve our support."