mental illness, prison system, substance use disorder, trauma


The incarceration rates in the United States are the highest in the world. Within the U.S. prison population, mental illness is overrepresented as compared to the general population. The present study examined existing literature that researched the connection between the prison system and mental illness, and the potential solutions to this crisis. The studies looked at focused on psychiatric disorders, substance disorders, and trauma. They also focused on the intersection between race, mental illness, and the prison system, and the intersection between mental illness, gender, and the prison system. These studies revealed a high prevalence of untreated mental illness in U.S. prisons, as well as a co-occurrence of substance use disorders. These studies showed that trauma increases the risk of developing mental illness. High rates of a history of trauma exist among U.S. prisoners. Women and African American prisoners in particular have the highest rates of a history of trauma. The studies reviewed showed how these factors increase criminogenic risk and are disproportionately present in U.S. prison populations. Additionally, the factors that contribute to the development of mental illness and subsequent criminogenic factors were addressed. The review of these studies exposes the need for mental health services to be made available and accessible to incarcerated people in the U.S.

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Class Project or Paper

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Communication Disorders