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Gender, Mental Illness, and Crime

NCJ Number
224028
Author(s)
Melissa Thompson
Date Published
September 2008
Length
70 pages
Annotation
This report presents the methodology and findings of a study of the gendered effects of depression, drug use, and treatment on crime and the effects of interaction with the criminal justice system on subsequent depression and drug use.
Abstract
The study found that being depressed and using illegal substances significantly increased criminal behavior for both men and women, although both factors were especially problematic for women. The study also found that treatment of substance dependency and/or depression had little impact in reducing crime and might actually have increased crime rates. The exception to this finding involved older respondents, who were less likely to engage in crime after receiving either depression or substance-abuse treatment; these results were similar for both men and women. In addition, the research found that individuals who became involved with the criminal justice system tended to be more depressed and more likely to engage in illegal substance use than individuals who had no criminal justice contacts. Criminal justice contacts were particularly likely to increase men’s depression and women’s illegal drug use. These findings point to the need to be aware of the effects of criminal justice interventions on the mental health of offenders. This suggests the need to focus on reducing the impact of stressors experienced within the criminal justice system. This might include lower bail or shorter sentences and allowing these offenders to return to their families, workplaces, or schools as soon as possible. Future research should use longitudinal data in order to better understand the sequence and timing of the events examined in this study. This study analyzed data obtained in 2004 as part of the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a nationally representative survey of respondents aged 12 years or older. 18 exhibits, 13 references, and 12 notes

Date Published: September 1, 2008