Housing, Displacement, and Incarceration

Eviction and foreclosure


The foreclosure crisis has had devastating effects on public health in the U.S., creating a "public hell" for many. Across the country, ten million Americans have been thrown out of their homes, and predatory lending and the resultant legal battles have rendered these people homeless and their homes people-less. In Chicago alone, more than 116,000 individuals were homeless during the 2012–13 school year — an increase of more than 10% from the year before, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

For African Americans — who have been hit the hardest by foreclosure and eviction — this is just one more chapter in a long history of landlessness. After generations of struggle for basic human and civil rights, many are now finding it difficult to hold onto the right to own the most basic and necessary property: a home.

Mass incarceration

The U.S. system of mass incarceration has numerous negative effects on the health of communities targeted by the drug war. Drug laws impact Black and Latino populations disproportionately to their rates of drug use. Mass incarceration negatively influences civil and human rights, individual and community health, and empowerment, affecting not only the individuals who enter and leave the mass incarceration system but also their families, their communities, and our society. Legalized discrimination, based on criminal records, increases poverty rates by reducing access to legal employment, housing, loans, education, and social services.

These effects render the system of mass incarceration — as a group of sociopolitical forces — a social determinant of health, which the field of public health needs to further integrate into its education, research, practice, and activism. Mass incarceration exacerbates health and power inequities through long-term punishment for non-violent drug use. As an urgent and widespread social injustice, it warrants a strong response from the public health community.

Topics in housing, displacement, and incarceration

Related topics

Some RPH events about housing and mass incarceration


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