We use national data on 5,552 inmates and the 214 state prisons in which they reside to examine how prison conditions are associated with mental health symptoms net of individual-level factors. Structural equation models indicate that prison overcrowding and punitiveness are positively related to both depression and hostility, while the availability of work assignments is negatively related to both mental health indicators. The proportion of inmates whose home is more than 50 miles from the prison was positively associated with depression. Inmates reported higher levels of hostility when the prison did not allow television and there was a recent prison suicide. These results suggest the importance of examining a wide range of prison deprivations in research on inmate well-being to lay the groundwork for understanding the mechanisms through which prison deprivations are linked to mental health.

Timothy G. Edgemon, Jody Clay-Warner

Society and Mental Health, August 2, 2018

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