Prisoners Report Significant Mental and Physical Problems

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Prisoners Report Significant Mental and Physical Problems

Editor’s note: Anyone working with people caught up in the criminal justice system are astounded by the number of people with physical and mental health problems.

Crime takes an enormous toll on those involved with many (most?) having physical or psychological injuries from a criminal lifestyle. The inability of many offenders to make good decisions (cognitive disability) hampers the majority.

We continue to suggest that many (most?) offenders come from childhood backgrounds of abuse and neglect, which powers the cognitive disability, substance abuse and mental health problems we face.

Female jail inmates (49 percent) were more likely than male jail inmates (39 percent) to report having a disability, which is not surprising based on female self-reported sexual assault victimizations as children.

From a variety of previous self-report data and our own observations, we suggest that what follows is an undercount.


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The Report:

An estimated 32 percent of state and federal prisoners and 40 percent of local jail inmates reported having at least one disability in the 2011–12 National Inmate Survey per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

Estimates of disabilities include six specific classifications: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care and independent living.

A cognitive disability—defined as serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions—was the most common disability reported by prison and jail inmates. An estimated 19 percent of prisoners and 31 percent of jail inmates reported having a cognitive disability.

An ambulatory disability was the second most common reported disability, with 10 percent of each population reporting difficulty walking or climbing stairs.

Prisoners were about three times more likely and jail inmates were about four times more likely than the general population to report a disability.

Compared to the general population, prisoners were about four times more likely and jail inmates were about 6.5 times more likely to report a cognitive disability.

Female prisoners (40 percent) were more likely than male prisoners (31 percent) to report having a disability. Similarly, female jail inmates (49 percent) were more likely than male jail inmates (39 percent) to report having a disability.

Among specific disability types, female prisoners were more likely than male prisoners to report a cognitive disability, but were equally likely to report having each of the other five disabilities.

Among prisoners with a disability, more than half (54 percent) reported a co-occurring chronic condition, and about a third (32 percent) reported ever having had an infectious disease, including tuberculosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or a sexually transmitted infection (excluding HIV).

A quarter (25 percent) of prisoners with a disability reported serious psychological distress (SPD) during the past 30 days, and nearly a third (31 percent) were obese or morbidly obese.

More than half (53 percent) of jail inmates with a disability reported a co-occurring chronic condition, and more than a quarter (26 percent) reported ever having had an infectious disease.

Additionally, 42 percent of jail inmates with a disability reported past 30-day SPD and 24 percent were obese or morbidly obese.

Prison and jail inmates with a disability were more likely than those without a disability to report a co-occurring chronic condition, ever having had an infectious disease and past 30-day SPD. There were no significant differences in obesity rates between prison and jail inmates with or without a disability.

Other findings include—

About 13 percent of prisoners and 16 percent of jail inmates reported having multiple disabilities.

Prison and jail inmates age 50 or older were more likely than those ages 18 to 24 to report a hearing, vision, ambulatory, self-care and independent living disability, but they were equally likely as those ages 18 to 24 to report a cognitive disability.

Estimates are based on self-reported data from 10 percent of the inmates selected in the BJS 2011–12 National Inmate Survey. A total of 10,259 inmates age 18 or older (4,265 inmates in state and federal prison and 5,994 inmates in jail) completed the disability module.

The report, Disabilities Among Prison and Jail Inmates, 2011–12 (NCJ 249151), can be found on the BJS website at http://www.bjs.gov/.

 

 

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