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Women's Pathways to Jail: Examining Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

NCJ Number
Shannon M. Lynch, Ph.D.; Dana D. DeHart, Ph.D.; Joanne Belknap, Ph.D.; Bonnie L. Green, Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2013
4 pages
This study assesses the prevalence of serious mental illness (SMI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders (SUD)of women in the criminal justice system.
Results indicate that trauma and mental health issues were associated with the onset of crime; a majority of women in jail had at least one of the assessed mental health disorders in their lifetime; one in four women met criteria for lifetime SMI, PTSD, and SUD; many women met criteria for SMI, PTSD, and/or SUD in the past 12 months, and 25 percent reported severe functional impairment in the past year; half of the women received treatment for substance use or mental health issues prior to incarceration; most of the women in jail experienced multiple types of adversity and interpersonal violence in their lives; and women with SMI were more likely to have experienced trauma, to be repeat offenders, and to have earlier onset of substance use and running away. This study not only provides information to help develop strategies that address and respond to these issues, but can also help to determine how these issues are related to jail overcrowding, increased pharmacological costs, and increased stress for correctional personnel who may not be trained to address mental illness. Furthermore, the findings from this study can help to enhance mental health screening at jails as well as gender-responsive programming for primary prevention, rehabilitation, and reentry into the community. References