The Effects of Victimization and Previous Traumatic Experiences on Prisoner Distress

Andrew L. Hochstetler, Iowa State University
Daniel S. Murphy, Iowa State University

Prisoner's accounts of their experiences and the effects of imprisonment on their well-being vary. Victimization plays a significant part in how prisoners experience their incarceration. however, many prisoners have had difficult lives and significant troubles before incarceration, and this complicates understanding of the effects of prison victization on distress. This study addresses released prisoners' distress as an outcome of prison victimization, earlier experiences, and social support. Data are drawn from surveys administered to 208 men recently released from prison in a midwestern state. Using path analysis, we examine the effects of victimization on current distress (depression and PTS symptoms). We control for the effects of previous stressors, outside social support, street life, and low self control. We investigate potential direct effects of pre-prison variables and indirect effects via victimization and support on current distress. Findings reveal that victimization in prison significantly predicts post-release levels of distress. Social support does not buffer this effect. Both street life and previous stressors predict prison victimization, although street life reduces the chances of it occurring. In fact, victimization mediates the effects of street life on current distress.

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Updated 05/20/2006