The number of people incarcerated in the United States is estimated to be around 2.3 million people. In isolation, that number can be internalized as less than 1% of the population. But it is an incredible number; in people alone, it would rank among the five largest cities in the United States. Yet, for this population of people, there is very little current information available relevant to health. In response, we propose the Third City Project to locate and analyze data on health concerns and conditions among people who are incarcerated through a public health lens.


Our name, the Third City Project, utilizes social math: it is an approximation, based on our best understanding of the number of people incarcerated at any given time in America. It provides a conceptualization of the scope: as least as many people are in incarcerated in this country as the number of people that live in Chicago, Houston, or Philadelphia. And, if you count people cycling through jails, nearly 11 million each year, the size of the incarcerated population would outrank all cities in this Nation.  


The Third City Project promotes the well-being of people and communities impacted by the criminal legal system by shining a light on health data behind the walls. Our team is composed of interdisciplinary public health scientists at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill School of Medicine. We address data through a public health lens, center the experiences of people who are incarcerated, and produce data that is accessible, accurate, and actionable.

For more information, visit www.3rdcityproject.com.


PI: Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein
Policy Analyst: Forrest Behne
Research Assistants: Zaire Cullins & Jennifer Lao
Graduate Research Assistants: Sara Grundy & Kate LeMasters
Undergraduate Research Assistants: Divya Korategere, Deeya Pathak, & Alyssa Wilson