J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2023 Sep 6. doi: 10.1007/s40615-023-01755-7. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: To quantify racial disparities in mortality and post-hospitalization outcomes among incarcerated individuals that were hospitalized during their incarceration period.
METHODS: We designed a retrospective cohort study using administrative and hospital data collected from a preferred healthcare referral center for all Massachusetts jails and prisons between January 2011 and December 2018 with linkage to Massachusetts Vital Records and Statistics. We identified 4260 incarcerated individuals with complete data on race/ethnicity that were hospitalized during the study period. The primary study indicators were age, race, ethnicity, length of hospital stay, Elixhauser comorbidity score, incarceration facility type, and number of hospital admissions. The primary outcome was time to death.
RESULTS: Of the incarcerated individuals that were hospitalized, 2606 identified as White, 1214 identified as Black, and 411 people who identified as some other race. The hazard of death significantly increased by 3% (OR: 1.03; 95% CI: 1.02-1.03) for each additional yearly increase in age. After adjusting for the interaction between race and age, Black race was significantly associated with 3.01 increased hazard (95% CI: 1.75-5.19) of death for individuals hospitalized while incarcerated compared to White individuals hospitalized while incarcerated. Hispanic ethnicity and being incarcerated in a prison facility was not associated with time to mortality, while increased mean Elixhauser score (HR: 1.07; 95% CI: 1.06-1.08) and ≥ 3 hospital admissions (HR: 2.47; 95% CI: 2.07-2.95) increased the hazard of death.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest disparities exist in the mortality outcomes among Black and White individuals who are hospitalized during incarceration, with an increased rate of death among Black individuals. Despite hypothesized equal access to healthcare within correctional facilities, our findings suggest that incarcerated and hospitalized Black individuals may experience worse disparities than their White counterparts, which has not been previously explored or reported in the literature. In addition to decarceration, advocacy, and political efforts, increased efforts to support research access to datasets of healthcare outcomes, including hospitalization and death, for incarcerated people should be encouraged. Further research is needed to identify and address the implicit and explicit sources of these racial health disparities across the spectrum of healthcare provision.