University of Michigan researchers recently created a computer model that demonstrates that decreasing incarcerations within a community may also decrease how many sexual partners people have, preventing sexual transmitted infections from spreading.
The research shows that men who have had prison sentences have significant shifts in their sexual behavior when they leave prison; higher male incarceration rates correlated to the model’s higher number of sexual partners for both sexes. This changes how men and women sexually network.
"The model shows that simply removing men and returning them to the community frequently can increase the number of sexual partners that both men and women have in the community," Dr. Andrea Knittel, lead author of the study, said. "It supports the assertion that mass incarceration has complicated and far-reaching unintended consequences, and may have significant public health implications."
The study, available in Social Science & Medicine, suggests this could be a new approach for helping to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, within a community.
"Our model showed that high levels of incarceration likely play a role in community-level sexual behavior, and are likely detrimental in terms of sexual risk for HIV and other STDs," Knittel said. "The results suggest that reducing incarceration and creating a more open criminal justice system that supports the maintenance of inmates' relationships to reduce instability of partnerships for men who are incarcerated may have important sexual health and public health implications."