07 Aug Poor Mental and Physical Health Linked to Criminal Recidivism
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Nathan W. Link, PhD
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice
Camden, NJ 08102
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Much literature documents the physical and mental health problems ailing prisoners and those incarcerated in jails. Some research finds that incarceration can bring about or exacerbate these mental and physical health conditions.
Beginning from this premise, we ask how this damaged health status influences former prisoners’ ability to return home and remain crime free. We examined physical health limitations and depression among a longitudinal sample of prisoners in twelve U.S. states and found that both dimensions of health problems lead to further criminal behavior and in turn reincarceration. This effect is of health conditions is indirect; it affects crime and reincarceration through adverse impacts on employment and family relationships—factors long known to be related to criminal offending. In this way, we now know that not only can incarceration lead to health problems, but health problems can lead to incarceration.
This is important in a society with leading incarceration levels and wide health disparities across race and socioeconomic status.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Of course we should address people’s health conditions because it’s the right thing to do, but there are good public policy reasons to do it as well. Efforts to improve (and not damage) the health of prisoners and the formerly incarcerated can increase employment, and reduce crime and public expenditures on an expensive criminal justice system.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Future research ought to unpack what types of interventions are successful in reducing the impact of health problems and how this may ease the transition from incarceration to the community.
Link, NW, Ward, JT, Stansfield, R. Consequences of mental and physical health for reentry and cricri: Toward a health‐based model of desistance. Criminology. 2019; 1– 30. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9125.12213
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