Persons with health problems are largely overrepresented in the criminal justice system. This overrepresentation is particularly pronounced in prisons. For instance, compared with the general population, adult prisoners have a two- to four-fold increased chance of major depression and experience substantially elevated levels of psychological distress. In addition, physical health problems, like hypertension, asthma and infectious diseases are relatively prevalent in prison populations.
Despite the magnitude of these health problems, knowledge on the relationship between health, imprisonment and criminal behavior is limited. One of the reasons for this is a lack of longitudinal studies following prisoners over a long time, both during and after imprisonment. In this project we will examine the course of prisoners’ mental and physical health problems prior to, during, and after their imprisonment. A central research aim is to examine the reciprocal relationship between prisoners’ health, imprisonment and criminal behavior. To address these research aims data will be used from the Prison Project, a longitudinal study on the effects of imprisonment on the further life course of prisoners and their families. This study includes – amongst others - detailed and longitudinal information on prisoners’ criminal behavior, their mental health symptoms, substance use, health care utilization, and medication use.
Dr. Anja Dirkzwager