Date of Award
Master of Science
Daniel W. Kemper
Dr. Rick Steinman
Mental illness, in the context of severe and enduring mental illness, is a growing problem particularly among incarcerated individuals and is likely to have implications for the way mental health services are utilized in local jails, state prisons, and federal prisons. The goal of the current study was to determine a relationship between persons suffering from mental illness among individuals with a criminal background.
As the prison populations increase, so do the number of mentally ill individuals involved in the criminal justice system. Many criminals suffer from homelessness and health-related concerns (e.g., substance abuse, HIV infection), these individuals may alternate between the community where they commit mostly minor offenses, community rehabilitation agencies, and serving time in jail or prison.
The purpose of this thesis project was to examine the potential correlates of delinquency among thirty-five individuals with severe emotional disturbance or a mental illness. Specifically, the goal was to explore associations between mental illness and criminal behavior based on (1) disability; (2) type of crime; (3) gender; (4) race; (5) age; (6) marital status; (7) education; (8) military service; and (9) citizenship.
The population that was surveyed was classified by two defining characteristics: (1) diagnosed by a practicing physician as having a mental illness; and (2) formally charged through the criminal justice system as having committed a crime. Following the guidelines of simple random sample chose the population of the sample. Thirty-five individuals were chosen to participate in this study. The type of research design chosen for this study determined the sample size. For this study a correlational research was chosen. The sample was chosen form a collection of case files from Challenge Unlimited, Inc. Each file chosen to be included in this study was randomly selected from a collection of case files of individuals receiving vocational rehabilitation services. The pertinent information was recorded onto a questionnaire so that there is no room for misinterpretation of the information.
Of the variables examined between severe emotional disturbance and criminal behavior no statistical relationship was established. In general, of the twenty-five (71 %) individuals of the participants of this study diagnosed with a severe emotional disturbance and involved with the criminal justice system were thirty-one individuals between the ages of twenty-three and sixty-four (88%), twenty single individuals (56%), thirty-one individuals never serving in the military (88%), and thirteen individuals never completed high school (36%). Of the thirty-five participants with criminal records, twenty-five (71 .4%) had diagnosed of severe emotional disturbance. Among these thirty-five participants, twenty-six (74.3%) were convicted of major offenses, whereas nine (25.7%) were convicted of non-major offenses.
The proportion of the subjects in this sample involved in the criminal justice system diagnosed with a severe emotional disturbance was inconsistent with the sixteen (16%) percent reported by Ditton (1999, 1) in a study of 1,733,750 inmates incarcerated in the Nation's prisons and jails.
Based on the statistical tests conducted using the SPSS computer program a relationship was not established among the following: (a) individuals diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder and criminal behavior; (b) individuals between the ages of twenty-three and sixty-four diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder with a history of criminal behavior; (c) males diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder with a history of criminal behavior; (d) single individuals diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder with a history of criminal behavior; (e) Caucasian individuals diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder with a history of criminal behavior; (f) individuals earning a GED diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder with a history of criminal behavior; and (g) individuals serving in the military diagnosed with a severe emotional disorder with a history of criminal behavior.
Peoples, Jaimie, "Correlates of Offenders Among Individuals with Severe Emotional Disturbances" (2000). Theses. 328.
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