Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor

Shannon Self-Brown, PhD

Second Advisor

Kathleen Baggett, PhD

Third Advisor

William Sabol, PhD


Background: The number of women in the justice system has risen at nearly double the rate of men in the last 40 years. The purpose of the current study is to better understand the stress of women involved in the criminal justice system, and how stress relates to the types of justice involvement.

Aims: This study examined the National Survey on Drug Use and Health data from years 2014-2016 and the impact of justice involvement on the primary outcome of stress, defined as psychological distress and functional impairment, for women (N = 68,567) engaged in various types of justice involvement (no current involvement, lifetime arrest, arrested in the past 12 months, and community supervision).

Methods: Using weighted, cross-sectional data, multiple regression analyses were conducted to estimate the effect of type of justice involvement on psychological distress and functional impairment scores for U.S. adult women. Predictor variables (major depression, alcohol abuse, overall health, and insured status) and control variables (age, race, education, family income, and marital status) were included in the regression models. Thirty-two separate regressions were run.

Results: Results show differences in psychological distress (PD) and functional impairment scores (FIS) among non-justice involved women and justice-involved women; PD and FIS are greatest among women who are currently involved in the justice system. The greatest predictors of PD and FIS are past 12-month depression and poor overall health.

Conclusion: Results from this study support the conclusion that justice involvement is a stressor for women in the U.S. Findings from this study can be used to support the implementation of interventions for women who have current contact with the justice system to reduce stressors and improve health outcomes.


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