Traumatic event exposure and behavioral health disorders among incarcerated females self-referred to treatment

Nancy Wolff, Roshnee Vazquez, B. Christopher Frueh, Jing Shi, Brooke E. Schumann, Douglas Gerardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


At least half of the women inside prison have mental health problems, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse during their formative years and often in adulthood, and have addiction problems. Only a minority of these women receive treatment for their behavioral health problems associated with trauma while incarcerated, even though these problems are risk factors for returning to prison after release. This study focuses on the traumatic experiences and behavioral health problems of a group of female inmates who volunteered in August 2009, to be screened for admission into an integrated trauma-reentry program implemented at an adult female correctional facility. Of the 278 women who self-referred for screening, 196 preliminarily met the time eligibility criterion of residing at the prison for eight to 24 more months. Half of these women (n = 97) were actually time-eligible for screening and agreed to be screened. Of this sample of treatment-seeking soon-to-be-released female prisoners, the vast majority (93%) reported significant and complex histories of traumatic event exposure and high rates of either posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or sub-threshold PTSD, past alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence, other axis I psychiatric disorders, and subjective distress. Identifying trauma exposure histories and associated behavioral health problems within this population and providing effective interventions holds potential promise for preparing incarcerated women to manage their post-release lives in ways that will keep them safe, healthy, and in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-163
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Injury and Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Abuse
  • Addiction
  • Axis I mental disorder
  • Behavioral health disorders
  • Incarcerated females
  • PTSD
  • Traumatic event exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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