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Medical Conditions, Mental Health Problems, Disabilities, and Mortality Among Jail Inmates

NCJ Number
April Trotter; Margaret Noonan
Date Published
May 2016
6 pages

This article discusses Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) data on the medical conditions, mental health problems, disabilities, and mortality of jail inmates.


Compared to the standardized general population, jail inmates in 2011-2012 were more likely to report ever having a chronic medical condition, especially high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart-related problems, asthma, or cirrhosis. Forty-five percent of jail inmates reported ever having a chronic medical condition compared to 27 percent of the general population. Percentages of serious psychological distress (SPD) among jail inmates were substantially higher than SPD among the general population based on the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Approximately 3 percent of the general population in every subgroup had SPD, compared to 26 percent of male jal inmates, 26 percent of inmates between ages 18 to 44, 22 percent of Black adult inmates, and 31 percent of White adult inmates. Among jail inmates with mental health problems, approximately 75 percent met the criteria for substance dependency or abuse in 2002 (most recent data). Just over half of jail inmates without mental health problems were dependent on or abused alcohol or drugs. In comparison, 7 percent of the general population age 12 and older met the criteria for an alcohol-use disorder, and 3 percent met the criteria for an illicit drug-use disorder in 2014. Jail inmates (40 percent) were moroe likely than the standardized general population (9 percent) to report having a disability in 2011-12. Jail inmates were 6.5 times more likely than the general population to report a cognitive disability, four times more likely to report a vision disability, and three times more likely to report a hearing disability. Deaths are uncommon in local jails. Since such data were collected in 2000, most jails have reported no inmate deaths. 1 table, 4 figures, and 11 references