Decarceral Public Health

Mass criminalization and mass incarceration, which disproportionately target poor people and people of color, tear through every aspect of social life, from public health and education to housing, labor markets, the opioid epidemic, and the climate emergency. These policies destroy communities and the networks of care and support required to lead productive, healthy lives, without offering long-term economic benefit, security, or safety.

Our research integrates advanced epidemiologic methods with sociological, critical criminological, and abolitionist theory to document and explain the collateral public health consequences of mass criminalization and incarceration. Dr. Prins is the principal investigator of a National Institute on Drug Abuse K01 grant to study the role of adolescent substance use as determinant and consequence of the school-to- prison pipeline. Other projects include research on the theoretical and methodological assumptions underlying risk assessment in the criminal legal system, and the impact of jail incarceration rates on county mortality.

Class Conflict and Public Health

How does capitalism make us anxious and depressed? Our work explores how the social division and structure of labor influences population mental health. We draw on social theory to better operationalize social factors as dynamic relational processes rather than individual attributes.

Social epidemiology’s traditional measures of socioeconomic status, like income and education, are the downstream outcomes of dynamic social processes, and do not shed light on the mechanisms generating social stratification in the first place. Our work looks upstream to such mechanisms, specifically economic exploitation and domination.

Our research finds that unconcealed exploitation (not being paid for productive hours) is associated with mental illness; that people in contradictory class locations suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety; and that occupations with lower autonomy, authority, and expertise, and higher automation, are associated with mental illness and substance use.