Punished and forgotten: multidimensional poverty assessment for peruvian prison population

Barrantes, Nicolas (2018). 'Punished and forgotten: multidimensional poverty assessment for Peruvian prison population' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda has set the eradication of poverty in all of its forms and dimensions as one of the most important global goals as well as a fundamental condition for human beings to “fulfil their potential in dignity and equality” (UN 2015, 2). Moreover, in the framework of the SDGs, the United Nations are committed to the idea of “leaving no one behind”, an ambitious aspiration that will require accomplishing all the global goals “for all segments of society” (3).


The assessment of the progress related to the SDGs is usually based on the analysis of household surveys and census. However, there are groups that are omitted from such instruments and which could constitute part of the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population (Carr-Hill 2013). One of the groups that is normally omitted in such analysis is prison population. At the moment, there are no multidimensional poverty diagnoses among inmates in the world. The absence of comprehensive research regarding the situation of deprivation in prisons places the penitentiary population in low an middle-income countries in a disadvantaged situation, leaving them behind for public policy purposes.


The aim of this study is to conduct a multidimensional poverty diagnosis among prison population in Peru. To carry out this exercise, we selected a set of 5 dimensions particularly relevant for inmates: (1) physical health, (2) mental health and addictions, (3) basic services, (4) educational, recreational and work activities, and (5) social connectedness. Then, using the Alkire-Foster multidimensional poverty measurement methodology, we calculated the incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty, as well as the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) among penitentiary population. All the dimensions were considered equally relevant, so each one was given a weight of 1/5 (or 20%) in the estimation of poverty. Each dimension was operationalized through two indicators. Thus, each indicator weights 1/10 (or 10%) in the calculation of the Alkire-Foster measures. We considered as multidimensionally poor individuals who are deprived in at least one entire dimension or the equivalent weight (2 indicators, 1/5 or 20% of deprivations). Notwithstanding, the measures are reported for other poverty thresholds: deprivation in 2 and 3 dimensions or the equivalent weight (40% and 60% of deprivations respectively).


The data source for this research was obtained from the National Census of Penitentiary Population of 2016, carried out by the Peruvian National Institute of Statistics (INEI, in Spanish). The census covered 76 180 inmates among the 66 prisons in all the regions of the country. It contains questions about socio-demographic characteristics of the individual, as well as living conditions in the establishment, among others (INEI 2016).


Considering a poverty threshold of 20% of deprivations (1 deprived dimension or the equivalent weight), results show that 57.2% of inmates are multidimensionally poor, whereas for the 40% and 60% poverty thresholds, the incidence of multidimensional poverty is 10.4% and 0.77% respectively. The indicators that contribute the most to the poverty situation are “sanitary services” (inmate was considered as deprived if he/she reported that sanitary facilities were little or nothing clean) and “food services” (inmate was considered as deprived if he/she reported that the quality of food was bad or very bad), both related to the dimension of basic services. For the 20% threshold, this dimension represents more than 56% of MPI in Peruvian prisons. Other important indicators in the multidimensional poverty situation were “discrimination” (inmate was considered as deprived if he/she feels discriminated at the establishment) and “family/friends visits” (inmate was considered as deprived if his/her family never visits him/her), related to the social connectedness dimension. Together they represent more than 17% of the MPI. Finally, another relevant result is that the incidence and MPI is higher in women than in men for the three analysed poverty thresholds (gap statistically significant at conventional levels).

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