Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Ann Coyne

Second Advisor

Dr. Gary Marshall

Third Advisor

Dr. Gwen Weber


This study used the results of mailed surveys to estimate the number of adults incarcerated in Nebraska prisons that have mental illness. It explored possible associations between the variables of gender, race, and mental illness. Survey questions, as well as the criteria for determining the presence or absence of mental illness, were based on a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Special Report (Ditton, 1999). In this survey sample (S=421), approximately 58% of incarcerated adults identified themselves as mental ill (according to BJS criteria), a percentage significantly higher than the 16% reported by the BJS. Several possible reasons for the discrepancy in these estimates are presented. No conclusions could be drawn about associations between the variables of gender and mental illness because of the small number of females among survey respondents. No conclusions could be drawn about associations between mental illness and race (when using five categories) due to the small number of respondents from the Asian, Hispanic, and Native American members of the population. When the number of racial categories was collapsed from five to three (including only African America, Caucasian, and Other), there were still no significant associations. Implications for policies regarding incarcerated mentally ill are discussed and suggestions for future research in this area are presented.


A Thesis Presented to the School of Social Work and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Masters of Social Work University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Cristin B. O'Rourke September, 2004