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January 17, 2013

Notable new research exploring connections between incarceration and mental health

4.coverVia The Crime Report, I just learned that the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior has two notable new research articles concerning links between incarceration and psychiatric disorders. (Having just recently seen Silver Linings Playbook, which I recommend, I am tempted to call these articles companion pieces to that intriguing movie in which criminal justice realities play a more important role than football.)  Here are links to the articles, along with their abstracts:

Jason Schnittker, Michael Massoglia, & Christopher Uggen, "Out and Down: Incarceration and Psychiatric Disorders":

Psychiatric disorders are unusually prevalent among current and former inmates, but it is not known what this relationship reflects.  A putative causal relationship is contaminated by assorted influences, including childhood disadvantage, the early onset of most disorders, and the criminalization of substance use. Using the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (N = 5692), we examine the relationship between incarceration and psychiatric disorders after statistically adjusting for multidimensional influences.

The results indicate that (1) some of the most common disorders found among former inmates emerge in childhood and adolescence and therefore predate incarceration; (2) the relationships between incarceration and disorders are smaller for current disorders than lifetime disorders, suggesting that the relationship between incarceration and disorders dissipates over time; and (3) early substance disorders anticipate later incarceration and other psychiatric disorders simultaneously, indicating selection. Yet the results also reveal robust and long-lasting relationships between incarceration and certain disorders, which are not inconsequential for being particular.  Specifically, incarceration is related to subsequent mood disorders, related to feeling “down,” including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia.  These disorders, in turn, are strongly related to disability, more strongly than substance abuse disorders and impulse control disorders. Although often neglected as a health consequence of incarceration, mood disorders might explain some of the additional disability former inmates experience following release, elevating their relevance for those interested in prisoner reintegration.

Kristin Turney, Christopher Wildeman, & Jason Schnittker "As Fathers and Felons: Explaining the Effects of Current and Recent Incarceration on Major Depression":

Dramatic increases in the American imprisonment rate since the mid-1970s have important implications for the life chances of minority men with low educational attainment, including for their health.  Although a large literature has considered the collateral consequences of incarceration for a variety of outcomes, studies concerned with health have several limitations: Most focus exclusively on physical health; those concerned with mental health only consider current incarceration or previous incarceration, but never both; some are cross-sectional; many fail to consider mechanisms; and virtually all neglect the role of family processes, thereby overlooking the social roles current and former prisoners inhabit.

In this article, we use stress process theory to extend this research by first considering the association between incarceration and major depression and then considering potential mechanisms that explain this association. Results from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3,107) show current and recent incarceration are substantially associated with the risk of major depression, suggesting both immediate and short-term implications.  In addition, consistent with stress proliferation theory, the results show the well-known consequences of incarceration for socioeconomic status and family functioning partly explain these associations, suggesting the link between incarceration and depression depends heavily on the consequences of incarceration for economic and social reintegration, not only the direct psychological consequences of confinement.

January 17, 2013 at 03:49 PM | Permalink


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I am not paying an exorbitant amount to read the article, so this is based on the abstract.

The data set was not designed for the purpose of the article, therefore is statistically invalid. A proper study would provide diagnostic interviews of prisoners, better specified, and of a matched control such as siblings, who grew up in the same environment, but did not go to prison.

It is often difficult to diagnose depression in substance abusers, or in people in stressful situations. They are being punished. If they turned out to be happy, then prison would be a reward. For some aliens, American prison represents a marked upgrade in living standards, meals daily, indoor bathrooms, top medical care, safety from roving gangs, etc. Would like to see a separate assessment of recent immigrants in prison.

This is another hug a thug study from a left wing sociology departments, which is morally reprehensible in advocacy on behalf of vicious predators. That is if it weren't useless garbage science, to be ignored.

They do not provide rates of the most important diagnoses, antisocial personality disorder and substance dependence. These make the prisoners heartless, selfish, presentist ultra-violent predators, no matter what the fictitious adjudicated charge says.

Suicide in prison should be immunized, and highly encouraged as an effective means to get rid of these predators, no matter the false of depression.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 18, 2013 6:34:55 AM

All I know, after observing inmates over many years, is that all come out nuttier than when they went in. To cast the situtation in all of these psychosomatic yakyak is a bit over blown. If prison does not make you crazy or make your craziness worse, then nothing does. Nuff said.

Posted by: Pete Bastian | Jan 19, 2013 8:05:32 PM

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