Adverse experiences, mental health, and substance use disorders as social determinants of incarceration

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This study describes how incarcerated people understand: (a) Adverse experiences, mental health, and substance use disorders as determinants of incarceration, (b) the role of gender in impacting this understanding, and (c) strategies to prevent incarceration. Ecosocial theory provides a theoretical framework. Open-ended interviews were conducted (December 2016–January 2017) with recently incarcerated adults in Massachusetts state prisons. Participants described determinants of incarceration and incarceration prevention strategies. Interviews were coded thematically using inductive and deductive approaches. Thirty participants, evenly split by gender, reported themes across four levels: Society (lacking basic needs, discrimination), community (neighborhood factors), interpersonal (trauma), and individual (social isolation, mental health, substance use). However, there were variations in themes by gender. Proposed prevention strategies included early access to quality individualized cross-system services. In conclusion, findings highlight how investing in social and community building services could prevent incarceration. Policies can support these services by redirecting funding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)744-762
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Community Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology

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