The relationship between abuse and offending is likely indirect, by way of mental illness and/or substance use disorder. However, the effects of abuse experiences prior to incarceration, as well as the impact of abuse perpetrator type and abuse timing on mental health and substance use outcomes, are underexplored in jail populations. The current analysis addresses this gap. In 2017, an assessment with 79 questions was administered to 4,713 individuals admitted to a large, Midwestern jail. The majority of the population (72.3%) reported no history of abuse, but 17.5% indicated a history of physical abuse, 3.2% a history of sexual abuse, and 10.0% a history of polyvictimization. Further, 43.6% of jailed individuals had a high level of an internalizing disorder while 19.4% had a high level of an externalizing disorder. Lastly, 28.5% of the population had a substance use disorder. We found that a history of physical and/or sexual abuse was significantly associated with mental health outcomes across men and women in jail. However, a history of abuse was largely unassociated with substance use disorder as an outcome, which is counter to past research in justice-involved youth and people incarcerated in prisons. Instead, our findings suggest that, rather than being an intervening variable between abuse histories and criminal behavior, substance use disorder may not act as an indirect pathway between abuse and offending but may still affect criminal behavior by way of mental illness or vice versa.
Nebraska Center for Justice Research, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Kowalski, M.; Campagna, Michael; Wright, Emily; and Spohn, Ryan E., "Victimization Prior to Jail: The Effect of Physical and/or Sexual Victimization on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder in a Population of Jailed Inmates: Research Brief" (2023). Reports. 90.