This week's award goes to the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health for their $417,601 grant to study racial disparities in the mortality rates of those who have served time in prison.
The grant was awarded to Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rand Corp, and the research is expected to be completed in December 2023.
HHS was the primary awarding agency, and the NIH's National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities was the subagency awarding the grant.
"The rapid increase in the criminal justice population has important health implications for justice-involved individuals, their families, and communities with the most vulnerable individuals at greater risk," states the grant description.
Prisoners, or what the agencies refer to as "justice-involved individuals," have elevated mortality rates compared to those who have not served prison terms, which, they suggest, means that "incarceration may have lasting consequences even after individuals return to the community."
This grant and its research is "crucial" per the federal agencies, as some groups such as African-Americans and Native Americans "have higher rates of incarceration and experience excess mortality relative to whites."
The Rand Corp. study "leverages" the results of one state's push to lower imprisonment rates. South Dakota's SB 70, or the South Dakota Public Safety Improvement Act of 2013, reduced prison sentences, increased probation, and lowered felony offenses. It also gave parolees days off the end of their sentences if they had a successful month on parole.
"Essentially, those arrested post-SB70 were subject to different penalties and supervision relative to those arrested pre-SB70 for the same offenses, based only on timing," according to the synopsis.
The study purports to be a disinterested investigation into the effects of incarceration on mortality among minorities. "We have little understanding of the degree to which criminal justice exposure elevates mortality risk and whether this relationship is stronger among minority groups," the synopsis states.
At the same time, the study appears designed to collect data to support a presupposition that incarceration and mortality are not merely correlated, but causally related, or "intertwined."
"Disparities in criminal justice exposure mirror disparities in mortality, suggesting that the two phenomena may be intertwined," hints the project summary."
In the parlance of the critical race theory that has come to dominate academic social science, statistical disparities between minority groups and whites are assumed to be evidence of "systemic racism," "white privilege" or "white supremacy."
"Thus, this study is not simply an evaluation of sb70, but rather a quasi- experimental assessment of the impact of criminal justice exposure on public health and health disparities," the description concludes.