Violence and Migration


Section 1: The United States Prison System Viewed as a System of Forced Migration

Section 2: Migration and Gender-Related Issues: Sexual/Reproductive Health and Violence in Forcibly Displaced Populations

The United States Prison System Viewed as a System of Forced Migration

The United States Prison System is one of the largest systems of forced migration and displacement in the world, targeting hundreds of thousands of African American and Latinx  individuals. The European Union defines a forced migrant as “A person subject to a migratory movement in which an element of coercion exists, including threats to life and livelihood, whether arising from natural or man-made causes.” When a person is arrested and sent to prison, they are trafficked, sometimes thousands of miles out of their community by correctional officers who threaten to shoot and kill them if they do not cooperate. You may not think of those who are incarcerated as forced migrants, but does it make a difference if a person is forced out of their homes and community by a correctional officer, political unrest, or a natural disaster? The forced migration of inmates leads to higher health problems in the prison population, puts a strain on families, and disrupts the communities where those who are incarcerated come from, mirroring the challenges introduced by other forced migrations. 

This bibliography section aims to facilitate novel discourse on mass incarceration and forced migration to show that the United States prison system is one of forced migration. To do this, the bibliography compares the similar effects that the prison system and immigrant deportation and detention have on individual and family healthcare, family finances and cohesion, and community trust and prosperity in the United States.

Effect of the Prison System on Individual and Family Health
  • James C. Thomas and Elizabeth Torrone, “Incarceration as Forced Migration: Effects on Selected Community Health Outcomes,” American Journal of Public Health (July 2008)
    • Research paper on the rate of sexually transmitted infections for those who are incarcerated in North Carolina and its similarity to the rate of sexually transmitted infections for forced migrants.
  • Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein, “Mass Incarceration and Children’s Outcomes,” Economic Policy Institute, December 15, 2016
    • Article on the health problems introduced because of stress, lack of support, and other related issues for the children of those who are incarcerated.
  • Jim Anderson, “Health Impacts of Immigrant Deportation in the United States,” Clinical Advisor, July 25, 2019
    • Article on the health problems introduced by stress, fear, and other related issues for children who are forced migrants or the child of a parent who is a forced migrant.

Effect of the Prison System on Family Finance 

Effect of the Prison System on Family Cohesion 

Effect of the Prison System on Community Advantage and Trust

Compiled by Eli Appelson (Summer 2020)

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Migration and Gender-Related Issues: Sexual/Reproductive Health and Violence in Forcibly Displaced Populations

This image is an artistic depiction of gender-based violence. The hands indicate the silence that (tragically and too often) follows sexual violence and reproductive health conversations; they also allude to the physical violation that accompanies sexual and gender-based violence. 

Sexual and reproductive health and violence is a historically stigmatized and silenced issue. Although massive strides have been made to bring attention and funding to these subjects since the delineation of reproductive health as a right at the 1994 UN conference on Population and Development in Cairo, it is nonetheless a pertinent and sensitive matter with persisting need for change. Barriers to reproductive health and instances of sexual violence are especially exacerbated in situations of violent conflict and forced migration. Access to reproductive health in refugee camps is strained by logistics and cultural taboo; sexual violence is a reality which has been normalized as a part of the “refugee experience.” As a senior (male) UNHCR official working in a refugee camp in Australia explained, “[rape] happens so often to these women that they get used to it, sort of expect it” (Pittaway and Bartolomei). Furthermore, fear of extreme retaliation from perpetrators, law enforcement, and/or the survivor’s own community leads to very low reporting rates (for all genders), continuing both silence and stigma.

It may seem that the most efficient way to “solve” or alleviate these colossal issues is through humanitarian and NGO reports for donors, or perhaps academic works; i.e. through identifying and detailing quantifiable gaps and ways to close them. While there is logistic truth to this statement, it has the ability to desensitize us to a highly personal experience; it is important to be in continuous consultation with and awareness of the stories of those around whom discussion revolves but often excludes. And while a substantial amount of ethnographic research—with findings based on interviews with those affected—exists, the relayed “refugee experience” is still controlled by and filtered through a western researcher. Therefore, as you peruse the following sources, please keep in mind the gravity of the information, the individuals behind the statistics, and the context in which the findings are reported and ingested. 

*Sensitive content warning: Many of the sources below include discussion and portrayals of sensitive topics including (but not limited to) sexual violence, exploitation, torture, and abuse.*

Introducing reproductive health and gaps therein

Sexual and Gender-based Violence

“Before the 1990s, sexual violence in war was, with rare exception, largely invisible. If not invisible, it was trivialized; if not trivialized, it was considered a private matter or justified as an inevitable by-product of war, the necessary reward for the fighting men.” Rhonda Copelon, Gender Crimes as War Crimes, McGill Law Journal (2000), 220 

Compiled by Kaiya John (Summer 2020)

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