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Pathways Project-Research Factsheet: Mental Health & Trauma among Women in Jails

NCJ Number
S. Lynch; D. DeHart; J. Belknap; B. Green
Date Published
2 pages
This factsheet contains findings from a survey on the prevalence of mental illness, substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder among a sample of female inmates from urban and rural counties.
A survey of 500 female inmates from both urban and rural counties examined the prevalence of mental illness, substance use disorders (SUD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the group. Highlights of the survey's findings include the following: a majority of the women had at least 1 of the mental health disorders in their lifetime; regional differences were found in the rates of the assessed mental health disorders; and half of the women received mental health or substance abuse treatment prior to incarceration. Additionally, the survey found that for the women who were assessed with at least one of the mental health disorders, 82 percent had a lifetime substance use disorder; 53 percent had PTSD in their lifetime; and 43 percent had a serious mental illness (SMI). The study also found that for the women who were identified has having a current mental health disorder, 20 percent had both a SMI and SUB in the previous 12 months, and 53 percent had a SUD and 28 percent had PTSD. In total, the survey found that women with SMI were more likely to have be repeat offenders, have experienced trauma, and to have an earlier onset of substance use and running away, compared to incarcerated women with no history of mental illness. These findings have serious implications for criminal justice stakeholders, such as mental health professionals and law enforcement officials, who wish to address the problem of incarcerated women with mental health issues.