Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2021
We explore the prevalence of delinquency and incarceration from a global, contextual perspective and review risk factors identified in the literature, as well as prevention efforts from a public health approach. As the correlation between disadvantage and delinquency is well-established, we propose that formulating this issue as one of public health provides the opportunity for both systemic and individual intervention. The relationship between disadvantage, delinquency, and adult imprisonment will be shown to be a global trend. As a public health issue, the opportunity for both systemic change and earlier individual prevention strategies arises. The absence of these community-based diversionary approaches places pressure on correctional facilities to provide these default community services. Given this, the worldwide trend for recidivism is the outcome of a predictable cyclical failure to meet this community public health need. As such, communities must recognize that current prison service designs fulfill this public health function. Their function is to separate offenders from the community, but remain connected to the community. The tragedy of the incarcerated individuals' experience is shown with a US case example demonstrating the manifestation of this complexity within an overburdened system. Implications for interdisciplinary efforts between public health and community psychology are discussed.