Johanna Crane examines the devastating health effects of incarceration in US prisons, which dramatically deteriorate rates of physical and mental well-being, constituting what she calls a “slow death” by imprisonment. Crane’s research finds that imprisoned people refer to themselves as “being institutionalized”—“a biopsychosocial state” of anxiety that has long-term bodily and mental impact. Crane concludes by arguing that looking at prison through a public health lens is important but must not detract attention from the structural reasons for mass incarceration and how to address them.
Johanna Crane is an associate professor in the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College, effective September 2019. She is author of the 2013 bookScrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise, and the Rise of American Global Health Science, an ethnography of transnational HIV research and scientific politics in the United States and Uganda (Cornell University Press, 2013). Her current research examines the relationship between health, illness, and incarceration in the United States. Crane earned her PhD from the UCSF/UC Berkeley Joint Program in medical anthropology and was a faculty member in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington-Bothell from 2011 through 2019. She has taught college courses to students incarcerated in three New York State prisons as an instructor within the Cornell Prison Education Program and the Bard Prison Initiative.