When I first saw the headlines about Black men living longer lives in prison than they are able to do on the outside, my breath caught in my throat. I wondered, how could prison— with all of its gangs, violent inmates, exposure to diseases, and lack of services—possibly keep someone alive longer than they’d be able to do on the outside. However, a new study published in the Annals of Epidemiology found that African-American men have a higher rate of death outside of prison than they do while they serve time.

The study followed 100,000 men between the ages of 20 to 79 who were held in North Carolina prisons between 1995 and 2005. According to the study’s findings, less than one percent of the men died while in prison (this number was fairly split between Black and White inmates). However, outside of prison African-American men had a much higher rate of death than their white counterparts.

The reasons, however, are not what you may think.

While incarcerated, Black men seemed to be protected against alcohol-and drug-related deaths, suicide, murder, as well as various chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  But the greatest protector against death for Black male inmates? Access to health care.

“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, told Reuters

While some point to this study’s findings as revolutionary in terms of providing health care to underserved communities, the over-incarceration of African-American men has devastated our communities.

The study’s author, Dr. David Rosen, explains:

“For some populations, being in prison likely provides benefits in regards to access to healthcare and life expectancy.”

However, Dr. Rosen cautions, “It’s important to remember that there are many possible negative consequences of imprisonment — for example, broken relationships, loss of employment opportunities, and greater entrenchment in criminal activity — that are not reflected in our study findings but nevertheless have an important influence on prisoners’ lives and their overall health.”

It’s a shame that there are such health care disparities in this country that people are safer and better taken care of in prison than in their own communities. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Perhaps this study will open a broader conversation about the need for high-quality health care in underserved communities. Because if you can keep men alive in prison, you can sure keep them alive on the street.



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  • JustSaying…

    How exactly is this shocking? The bums are too lazy and ignorant to make a living on their own in the real world so they mooch off taxpayers’ wallet in prison. Free healthcare, internet, fitness equipment, television, and a nice hard hole to poke whenever “pookie jr” needs a fix.

    We seriously need to do something about our justice system. These bums should be living off bread and water, no cable, no internet, and only the most barbaric form of healthcare.

    Right now there is no incentive to stay out of prison.

    • I got sense!


    • omg

      oh “just saying…..”


    • Timcampi

      People end up in prison for a variety of reasons. Just because your incarcerated doesn’t mean you stop being human. Correctional facilities and their treatment of inmates of any color is also less than amicable, which leads to more violence and crime both inside and when they get out.

      In Arizona their are women who are forced to give birth while chained and starved.


      She was arrested for TRAFFIC TICKETS. And that was the treatment she got because she was an immigrant in jail.

    • JustSaying…


      Bleeding hearts like you can pay for their upkeep. I think this type of taxation should be optional. Those who feel sorry for them should pay…while all others should be able to opt out. That sounds fair!

    • minna k.

      @ Justsaying…

      Really, sis? :.(

      I have no words.

  • QueenofNewcastle

    Women get out of prison in the form of welfare what men have to get in prison or the military. Im certain that black men who served in the military live longer than those who didnt.

  • TR

    I’m sure JustSayin was overjoyed when she saw this article. As we can see she couldn’t help herself. But there is greater issue highlighted yet again by this study. People in lower income brackets (and yes that includes many black women) get shafted when it comes to healthcare. We all know this. However, this study shows us just how pervasive it really is. When a lower income man can get better healthcare in prison than in the general society there is something wrong. And while some of the posters here are doing back flips to put down black men let us not forget the recent story of the homeless white man who committed a petty crime for purpose of getting locked up so he could have access to healthcare. The lack of adequate healthcare for lower income Americans is the real story here. Unfortunately, many blacks fall into the lower income classification.

  • NechamaOphir

    Question: How come everytime white people come out with a statistic do we just eat it up?????????????????????

  • Pema

    Honestly, this isn’t surprising to me. Aside from all the heated emotion from the above comments the fact is men in prison have medical care and dental care. These services are not freely accessible to those in the “outside world” unless you have a JOB.