Mental and physical health in prison: how co-occurring conditions influence inmate misconduct [2019]

Research has shown that inmate misconduct is related to a range of demographic factors and experiences with the criminal justice system. Poor mental and physical health has also been associated with inmate misconduct, although no research has examined the relationship between co-occurring conditions and misconduct in prison populations.

We rely on data from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities (N = 14,499) and use negative binomial regression models to examine the relationship between types of co-occurring mental and physical conditions and misconduct.

The results demonstrate that people in prison dealing with concurrent mental and physical health problems are significantly more likely to engage in prison misconduct than healthy incarcerated individuals. After accounting for physical and co-occurring health conditions, mental conditions are not associated with serious misconduct.

Enhancements in prison healthcare may not only improve the general health of those in prison, but also contribute to a decrease in misconduct. Research that examines the relationship between mental health and deviant behavior in and out of prison should consider the multifaceted elements of a person’s health, including acute and chronic physical ailments.

Daniel C. Semenza and Jessica M. Grosholz
Health & Justice, 2019 7:1