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The study investigated the relationships between 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 during incarceration. To achieve this aim, a secondary data analysis was performed using data from the Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities completed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2004 (N=2553). Six research questions 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. The four classes presented subgroups of women with varying mental health difficulties, including the serious mental illness group, the mood and drug use disorders group, the substance use only group, and the resilient group. 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 sexual or physical victimization in either childhood or adulthood. Social workers should develop and implement clinical mental health treatment in correctional centers that targets the specific co-occurring needs of incarcerated women, especially 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.

Publication Date



incarcerated women, mental health, victimization, violent perpetration


Social Work

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Kia J. Bentley

Is Part Of

VCU Graduate Research Posters

Mental health difficulties and service use of incarcerated women: The influence of violence perpetration and victimization

Included in

Social Work Commons