People like to call America the land of the free which is ironic given that as a country it has the largest percentage of incarcerated citizens; this in itself is already a significant problem and is indicative of deep and pernicious influences that are warping American society. the severity of this problem notwithstanding, the blatant racial inequality in the incarceration rates between white and black individuals is heinous crime — on par with if not more deplorable than slavery itself. In particular young black men seem particularly vulnerable to this disparity. In contrast to the challenges of investigating and understanding this issue, given its complexity and how deeply it is interwoven in our society, the motivation for this research is easy to understand. This inequality is harmful. It is harmful to the ones who get imprisoned, it is harmful to the communities they leave behind, and it is harmful to our nation as a whole due to the deep rifts it creates between fellow citizens. Ultimately this paper was written to shed light upon the continuing institutional racism against the black community that leads to serious health concerns; as well as expose the mechanisms that drive it, in the hope of contributing to creating a nation truly free of the legacies of slavery. While the incarceration disparity definitely affects everyone in the black community research shows that black men aged 15-34 of low socioeconomic status and little education are disproportionately affected (Pettit & Western, 2004). Despite the significant uptick in rates of incarceration due to the “prison boom”, some argue that the origin of the current racial disparity can actually be traced back to mechanisms enacted after the abolition of slavery in 1865. However, in more recent history the afore mentioned researchers studied the prevalence of imprisonment and its distribution among black and white men, aged 15 to 34, between 1979 and 1999. This data was then compared with two-time periods, 1945-49 and 1965-69. This comparison revealed that 20 years on, in the midst of a “prison boom”, even though the levels of disparity in incarceration were stable they still remained very high, with young black men 6 to 8 times more likely to be incarcerated. Despite the stability in the racial disparity during this time, it was revealed that class inequality had increased, non-college men were getting imprisoned at rates previously unseen in the 1980s and 1990s. Infact, the risk of imprisonment pretty much doubled for this segment of the population, from 1979 to 1999, with the brunt of the increase felt by those with just a high school education. Another damming statistic highlighting the devastating effect this disparity has on the black community is shows that recent birth cohorts of black men are more likely to have prison records (22.4 percent) than military records (17.4 percent) or bachelor’s degrees (12.5 percent). This disparity has a profound effect on the health outcomes of the young men who are incarcerated, because it severely limits the life choices available to ex-inmates, who more often than not must carry the stigma of being an ex-convict long after they have paid their debt to society. This stigma causes ex-convicts to miss-out on government aid programs for housing, food, and education; it also means they struggle to find employers willing to hire them. These circumstances ultimately lead to poor health behaviors. In fact, Porter (2014) conducted a study, utilizing follow up interviews with 20,000 subjects from the national longitudinal study of adolescent health conducted during the 1993-94 academic year, to compare the health behaviors of participants who had been incarcerated with those who had not. He found that those who had been incarcerated were consuming fast food at a higher rate and were more likely to have a smoking habit. This is significant because as it stands most ex-convicts are trapped in these circumstances and if they continue on this trajectory they become more prone to chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. While we have been mostly discussing the consequences the disparity in imprisonment has on the young adults who fall victim to it, make no mistake, they are not the only ones who suffer from this institutional form of racism. Because as Turney (2017) points out parental incarceration is already concentrated among those children most in need of health care, and parental incarceration only serves to exacerbate existing inequalities in their unmet health care needs. This of course could then explain the high rates of infant and child mortality in the black community, as mothers and their children lack the money or support required to meet basic requirements for living let alone any health concerns that come up. As mentioned earlier in this paper the racial disparity in incarceration rates goes back a long way when looking at America’s history. Larson (2016) used modern day literature and film to analyze it American history and its trends, to inform the current understanding of racial inequality in imprisonment rates. Specifically, he mentions Blackmon’s film Slavery by Another Name which argues that the current racial disparity in incarceration can be traced back to the ratification of Thirteenth Amendment. Ratified in 1865 it made slavery illegal, “except as a punishment for crime.” this loop hole, allowed whites, during that time, to employ malicious schemes like inflated sentences, court fees, and vagrancy laws to imprison blacks, and then lease them to local farms and mines. These despicable strategies were so effective that they informed future attempts at racial suppression and control targeting blacks during the black freedom movements in the 1960s, and more significantly America’s wars on crime and drugs. In fact, he also brings up that according Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, there are more blacks under correctional control than there were in slavery in 1850. Some argue that in terms of the public worrying about black crime: it was a case of the chicken coming before the egg. The arguments make the case that heavy-handed laws, like mandatory minimums, caused incarceration rates to skyrocket creating an illusion of dangerous black criminality in the minds of the public. It could be argued that the “War on Drugs”, initiated after the 1960s has been so effectively interwoven into the daily lives of black communities that it has created a vicious cycle of racialized suppression that serves a pipeline into poverty, prison, and disease. With this history I mind it is easier to see how a conflux of all of these factors leads the creation and perpetuation of institutional racism, meant to disenfranchise, control, and suppress blacks. The cycle starts with the inherited disadvantage of having just recently attaining freedom, relative to white individuals. This disadvantage means that most black individuals are poorer than their white counterparts which means they are probably more likely to participate in crimes like the selling and use of illegal-narcotics, and because of laws that disproportionately target them they are incarcerated for minor-drug offences that many white individuals are forgiven for. Once black individuals are incarcerated they become disenfranchised, and struggle to find a way to reintegrate themselves and become a contributing member of society. This struggle causes many ex-convicts to lose hope and return to a life of crime, meaning that most of them return to prison 3-5 years after their release (Marbley & Ferguson, 2005). Even those who manage to stay out end up with poor health behaviors that eventually lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. Of course, with so many young black men incarcerated many communities are plunged into deeper levels of poverty with half of the household’s earning potential out of the picture. This leads to more children growing up with poor health behaviors, education, health care, and ultimately limited opportunities to escape the cycle of poverty. Our criminal justice system has failed to address this issue since along with incarceration rates the recidivism rates are extraordinarily high, with the majority of inmates returning to prison 3 to 5 years from their release, and for an institution whose main function is to deter crime through imprisonment that is not good enough. Marbley and Ferguson (2005) found that According to Bureau of Justice statistics, in 2002, prisons under state and federal jurisdiction admitted 663,521 inmates and released almost the same number. These statistics paint a stark picture of our criminal justice system’s failure to fulfil its purpose to deliver justice and maintain order, by convicting and punishing the guilty and rehabilitating them. Even worse is that, aside from President Bush who proposed a 4-year $300-million federal program in 2004, to help newly released prisoners as they rejoin society, there is no comprehensive initiative by policy makers or the criminal justice system to address the country’s poor track record when it comes to prisoner reform. And even that did not work. In conclusion I believe that this paper has indeed shed light upon the continuing institutional racism, against black individuals, that plagues our country. It has also thoughtfully considered how the historical and sociological processes contribute to racial health disparities; as well as how these processes allow it to persist to this day. In regards to future research into this issue I do believe that data must continue to be collected so researchers can determine whether theses disparities are fading, but honestly there is more than enough research out there already. What is really needed now is action. In order to address the racial disparity in incarceration we must take a three-pronged approach 1st of all to prevent any new individuals falling into the system we need to do address policies like restrictive school districts, and mandatory minimums which only serve to recreate instances of segregation and slavery which traps many black individuals living in poor communities. 2nd of all rehabilitated convicts currently trapped in the system must be reintegrated into the society by enfranchising them, and rerouting federal funding from prison expansion into programs that help them get jobs so that they can support themselves and their families, thus breaking the cycle. 3rd of all, in order to avoid the relapse, that history has taught us to expect, great effort must be put into getting more black individuals into positions of power in order to check the influence of parties interested in exerting racial suppression.