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Social Networks and Health in a Prison Unit

NCJ Number
Date Published
17 pages
Since little is known about how confinement affects inmates' health while incarcerated, this study examined the role of peer social integration and prisoners' self-reported health behaviors (smoking, exercise, perception of health, and depression) in a prison unit, and it considered whether inmates with similar health characteristics cluster within the unit.
Drawing on a sample of 132 inmates in a "good behavior" unit, researchers leveraged social network data to ask: In prison, is it healthier to become friends with other prisoners or keep your head down and "do your own time"? Using exponential random graph models and community detection methods, findings indicate that social integration is associated with better health outcomes; however, race-ethnicity, religious identity, and exercise intensity emerged as key factors that sorted inmates into social groups and likely shaped the distribution of health behaviors observed in the unit. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018