Examining the Spillover Effects of Mass Incarceration and the Practices that Bolster It
HICKSON-DISSERTATION-2021.pdf (1007.Kb) (embargoed until: 2025-12-01)
Hickson, Ashley N
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Introduction Previous research inquiries suggest that the incarceration of a network member may contribute to a new type of weathering. The weathering hypothesis proposed by Geronimus asserts that Black people are burdened by an early physiological deterioration because of the cumulative impact of repeated exposures to social or economic adversity and political marginalization. These exposures affect physiological health by acting as mental health stressors. Given this context, this examination sought to explore how exposure to mass incarceration may adversely affect mental health at the county and individual level using multiple methods to elucidate how exposure to mass incarceration may influence morbidities such as obesity in populations disproportionately burdened by high rates of incarceration. Methods The first aim involved a phenomenological design and included 10 interviews with upwardly mobile Black millennial women in Texas to examine how exposure to mass incarceration has affected their wellbeing. The second aim explored the association between rates of jail incarceration and the average number of poor mental health days at the county level through quantitative analysis. The third aim was to study inequities in local rates by incarceration by reviewing discretionary arrest records from 2017 to 2021 in four Texas counties. Conclusions The first aim identified six main themes characterizing the phenomenon of mass incarceration through the lens of upwardly mobile African American millennial women in Texas. These themes were network exposure to mass incarceration, their perspective on mass incarceration, the burden of mass incarceration in Texas, spillover effects, mental health, and the heaviness and hopelessness of mass incarceration The second aim’s findings indicate that for every 1% increase in the rate of mass incarceration, there was a statistically significant 15.5% increase in the average number of reported poor mental health days over the past 30 days after controlling for the covariates in the model. The third aim’s review suggests that despite national recognition, Texas’ policy efforts to reduce mass incarceration have not had the impact needed to reduce inequities in arrests at the local level in the counties examined.