Incarceration and Hospitalization – Correlations in Institutional Counter-Productive Outcomes

Hospitals Making People Sick. The goal of hospitalization is to replace illness with wellness. In most cases, this is the outcome. However, it’s becoming common knowledge that a high rate of people hospitalized develop illnesses that were caused by conditions in the hospital.[1] The healthcare industry has acknowledged the problem of Hospital-Aquired Infection (HAI) and it may be one reason why patients are encouraged to get out of the hospital as soon as possible.[2]

In addition to HAI, it’s been documented that following hospitalization people are more likely to have some adverse health event:

“Recent studies are revealing that the period after the hospitalization is an exceptionally dangerous time. In month after hospitalization, 1 in 5 patients will experience some adverse health event that is so serious that they will require another hospitalization. And many more will need to be seen in the Emergency Department. And still others placed in an Observation Unit.” [Source: Forbes]

Institutional Causes of Illness. There are many possible reasons why someone might have diminishing health in a hospital:

  • Exposure to communicable diseases within the hospital transmitted by contact with surfaces or employees, or airborne exposure.
  • Institutional environments do not induce feelings of wellness and happiness for many people. A depressive atmosphere can result in a depressive mood which causes slowed rates of healing.
  • To the extent that mental wellness has caused the hospitalization (depression or other mental illness), immersion in the hospital context may exacerbate these conditions rather than improve them.
  • Reduced mobility
  • Lack of optimal nutrition
  • Lack of fresh air
  • Lack of natural light
  • Lack of positive stimulus (sounds and images that are uplifting)

Jails and Prisons Creating Criminals. A similar analysis could be made regarding incarceration. Conditions in jails and prisons are seemingly designed to be conducive to creating an environment that will have a negative impact on someone’s life and behavior rather than correcting and improving a person’s life.

Is Prison Increasing Crime?” is a 60-page report by Martin H. Pritikin published in the Wisconsin Law Review. [PDF] The following is just an excerpt from the contents of that report which provide a brief overview of the report highlights:

I. Cataloging the Criminogenic Effects of Incarceration

A. The Experience of Incarceration

1. Prison as a “School” for Criminals
2. Severance of Ties to Family and Community
3. Brutalization Effect of Prisons
4. Overcrowding
5. Solitary Confinement
6. Reactance

B. Postincarceration Consequences

1. Labeling
2. Diminished Employment Opportunities
3. Denial of Benefits and Other Social Programs
4. Restrictions on Political Rights

C. Third-Party Effects

1. Exposure Effects
2. Effects on Families of Offenders
3. Effects on Communities
4. Effects of Racial Disparities
5. Effects on Criminal Markets
6. Loss of Stigma for Criminal Subcultures

Either a cursory or in-depth study results in the same common sense and data-driven findings: there is a high risk of incarceration creating more crime and recidivism.

There are initiatives that hospitals can take to significantly reduce Hospital-Aquired Infection. Similarly, there are initiatives that the justice system can support that will reduce the negative impact of incarceration. Utilizing any opportunity to support jail alternatives and diversion programs is essential. Similarly, reducing the length of incarceration whenever possible is imperative. Overburdened court dockets need to be corrected by having additional courtrooms, judges, and funding.



  1. Could Being In The Hospital Make You Sick?,” Forbes, 15 January 2013
  2. A lack of insurance coverage is also a factor in reduced length of stay and reduced care provided.

Additional Sources

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