Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Kia J. Bentley


The present study aimed to expand the knowledge base regarding incarcerated women’s experiences with violence and their mental health with the goal of identifying avenues for more tailored, compassionate responses to their mental health difficulties in both macro and direct practice contexts. To achieve this aim, a secondary data analysis was performed using data from the Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities (SISCF) completed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2004. Six research questions pertaining to women’s experiences with violence and their mental health difficulties and service utilization guided the inquiry, which involved univariate, bivariate, and multivariate statistical analyses, including latent class analysis, performed to identify patterns in mental health difficulties among incarcerated women, and multiple logistic regression procedures. The latent class analysis resulted in selection of a 4-class solution which grouped women in the sample into four subgroups according to the latent variable of mental health difficulties. The four subgroups included the serious mental illness group (8.7%), the mood and drug use disorders group (30.3%), the substance use only group (11.7%), and the resilient group (49.4%). Women were less likely to be in the resilient mental health group and more likely to engage with a range of mental health services if they had perpetrated violence or experienced various forms of victimization, including sexual victimization in either childhood or adulthood, or physical victimization in either childhood or adulthood. Social workers should develop and implement clinical mental health treatment in correctional centers tailored to the mental health needs of subgroups identified through latent class analysis, including treatment for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. Clinical mental health treatment should also target those needs related to trauma stemming from victimization and perpetration of violence. Additionally, social workers should advocate for policies and programs to prevent and remediate drug-related crime and divert women with serious mental illness away from the criminal justice system.


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