The overincarceration of Indigenous people in Canada is a health crisis, causing more years of life to be lost than premature death from heart disease, injuries and cancer, argues a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Indigenous people make up a large part of the jail population in Canada.
"The overincarceration of Indigenous people in Canada needs to be recognized as both fundamentally unfair and a health crisis," says Dr. Davinder Singh. "Indigenous people should not be 4 to 26 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous people, as it results in more years of life lost directly to incarceration than to common health conditions, like heart disease and cancer."
Negative health effects continue after people are released, with a higher risk of death than the average risk of death in the community. This risk is especially high in the first 2 weeks after discharge, with many deaths occurring through overdose or suicide.
"If we consider the health and social consequences, from acute to chronic illness, and individual to family to community effects, the cost is crushing, both at a financial level and a human level," says Dr. Singh. "The good news is that the issue has been studied numerous times over decades; we just need to act on the recommendations from those reports."
The authors call upon government to address this public health crisis by addressing well-documented racism in the Canadian justice system.
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