“That was an old joke you hear in some communities: I’m going to go to jail to get my tooth fixed,” said Lorenzo Jones. Jones is Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, a New York- and Connecticut-based nonprofit that advocates for public health solutions to end mass incarceration and the drug war.
Over thirty years of community organizing for racial justice, Jones has witnessed firsthand the devastation that mass incarceration has wrought on the well-being of Black and other communities of color in the United States, particularly when it comes to mental health.
His grim joke about dental work reveals a disturbing truth: in the United States, prisons are some of the biggest healthcare providers. This is particularly true for mental healthcare, where three jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the three biggest organizations that provide inpatient psychiatric care.