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    a) Should hospitals and healthcare facilities make a concerted effort to employ ex-prisoners? Why? What might be some of the constraints? Has anyone been successful at such a hiring practice?
    I believe that a potential answer to this question requires a complex and multi-layered response. Multi-layered because there are many aspects that are important to consider when raising this question such as the application process, the competitiveness of the job market, the history of this country’s judicial system’s targeting of minorities, the personality and credentials of all applicants, etc. However, I do believe that our society should strive to offer worthy ex-offenders second chances so as to improve their lives and the overall wellbeing of their communities.

    Firstly, as in any hiring process, the employer must inspect and consider the qualifications and character of each applicant. In a healthcare facility, where many employees are tasked with taking care of patients, selecting the most reliable candidate for an open job position is imperative. This is where the competitive nature of job applications comes in. Realistically, if it came down to choosing between a convicted felon and an applicant with a clean record, the majority of employers would prefer to hire the candidate with the clean record as that choice oftentimes appears to be the more reliable and less risky choice. However, it would be ignorant to not look further than the word felon on an application when considering an applicant.

    In order to be more just, we must consider the makeup and history of this country’s justice system and how it reinforces the construction of systemic racism in these United States. According to a monthly census by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, roughly 46% of current prisoners are serving time due to charges regarding illegal drug usage. Of this 46%, the overwhelming majority consists of Black and Latino inmates. Of course, this is due to the ongoing “War on Drugs” and the systemic oppression of America’s lower income minority population. Now, of this demographic, more likely than not, the majority are not dangerous criminals with tendencies of violence but rather targeted minorities who have been born and raised in a country that has always been in an undercover war against them. Many of them may be decent candidates and deserving of a second chance, however, it is oftentimes difficult for employers to be this optimistic when selecting a job candidate because it is human nature to run with the safer choice.

    Thus, in theory, were I in the position of hiring an individual with a record, aside from inspecting the necessary credentials for the position such as experience, education, and character, I would also consider the nature of their accused crime. If they were incarcerated for something such as possessing a small quantity of marijuana, as an employer I would be much more lenient than if they were charged with a more serious and even violent offense. In conclusion, many of these individuals who are ex-prisoners more than likely have the capability and potential of being great employees, but I believe it would be foolish to completely ignore the severity of an applicant’s criminal history when hiring in a healthcare facility.

    An example of a center that has had a successful experience hiring ex-offenders is the Johns Hopkins hospital in East Baltimore, an at-risk neighborhood. More information on their hiring system can be found at:

    d) If one reviews co-morbidities of chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, asthma, obesity, etc.) and their associated mortality rates across the 50 United States – to what conclusions can one come? What social-economic determinants are driving those situations?
    In our society, it is much easier and more affordable to eat processed and unhealthy foods than it is to buy organic ingredients and go through the process of cooking meals and considering aspects such as nutritional value. Quite frankly, a huge percentage of Americans are not able to afford such “luxuries” as eating healthily consistently. For this reason, for the first time in human history, it is the lower class of society that is becoming increasingly more obese rather than the upper class being overweight, as was often the case in ancient societies before the invention of ready-made processed foods.
    In grocery stores across the United States, processed foods are often displayed in larger quantities and at lower costs than their organic counterparts. Sadly, there are even cases in which families are only able to afford fast food meals such as the dollar menu. The consistent consumption of such foods are proven to cause unhealthy weight gain and put the individual at a higher risk for diseases associated with weight and improper nutrition. Obesity and diabetes are two examples of chronic diseases of epidemic proportions that are plaguing many of the people of our nation. Although, obesity and the previously stated diseases are prevalent in all socioeconomic classes in American society, it is no coincidence that low income families and individuals are the most affected and at risk.
    Finding a solution to this issue is very complicated. Firstly, there are multiple culprits that enable this problem to persist and greatly benefit from this such as the corporations that make up a large portion of the food industry. Secondly, many Americans are ill-educated in this field and even if they were better educated, if they are not able to afford healthier alternatives, what then can they do but continue to consume what they can afford? With everything else going on in our nation today, this issue rarely receives the coverage that it needs, but awareness and education is always the first step in combating an issue such as this one.