Health Conditions and Victimization Among Incarcerated Individuals in U.S. Jails

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Purpose: Individuals incarcerated in jails across the U.S. suffer from poorer health compared to the general population. This study examines how mental, physical, and disability-related health conditions correspond to theft and assault victimization in jails.

Methods: We analyze a cross-sectional sample of 3650 jail inmates from the 2011–2012 National Inmate Survey (NIS-3) – Jails Alternative Survey. We assess the relationship between chronic conditions, serious mental illness, anxiety disorders, physical disabilities and two types of victimization in a series of logistic regressions.

Results: Having a physical disability and serious mental illness significantly heighten the risk of theft victimization by another inmate, net of all covariates. Health conditions are not associated with risk of assault by another inmate. The number of co-occurring conditions is associated with an increase in the risk of theft victimization, but not violent assault by another jail inmate.

Conclusions: Jail inmates suffering from various health conditions are at increased risk for theft victimization. Despite relatively short stays, many of those in jail suffer from mental, physical, or disability-related health issues that appear to heighten their risk for victimization. It is crucial to develop effective policies to protect the particularly vulnerable from victimization while in custody.

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Journal of Criminal Justice, v. 74, art. 101797