Becoming Institutionalized: Incarceration as a Chronic Health Condition


This article examines incarceration as a chronic condition with social, biological, and psychological elements. We do so through the lens of “institutionalization,” a concept that emerged during interviews conducted with 26 people incarcerated in Washington state prisons as a chronic and often disabling state resulting from prolonged incarceration. We argue that institutionalization helps conceptualize how the social inequities of mass incarceration become embodied as health inequities, and how social harms become physical harms. [prison, incarceration, institutionalization, chronic, inequality]