The Prison Social Milieu, Cell Overcrowding and Correlates to
Inmate Substance Use: A Study of Drug Using Inmates in Three
Madu, Nneka Janavive
Master's Thesis (59 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Stephenson, Robert
Research Fields: Health Sciences, Public Health; Sociology, Criminology and Penology
Partnering Agencies: International Non-governmental organization (e.g., CARE, Inc.)
Keywords: prison; drugs
Program: Rollins School of Public Health, Hubert Department of Global Health
Background: Individuals with a history of incarceration experience higher rates of infectious and chronic diseases, mental illness and trauma than the general population. Inmate misconduct, particularly drug infractions, is a reliable correlate for these negative inmate health outcomes. Very little research has explored the incarceration experience as a predictor of inmate substance use.
Objectives: (1) Identify the prevalence, type and frequency of drug use in three Mexico City prisons, (2) identify the aspects of prison social life that have a significant association with the increased likelihood of inmates reporting drug use, and (3) identify whether overcrowding is associated with inmate substance use.
Methods: Four logistic regression models were fitted for four outcomes of interest: any drug usage; heavy use of any drug; heavy marijuana usage; and heavy usage of multiple drugs. Covariates of interest were related to the prison experience and overcrowding.
Results: 350 male inmates were included in this study. Nearly 84% of inmates reported any drug use in prison. Respondents that reported having secondary education (OR: 0.3, 95% CI: 0.1-0.8) and respondents that reported being married/ in a committed relationship (OR: 0.4, 95% CI: 0.1-0.99) were less likely to report any drug use. Inmates with registered conjugal visitors were less likely to report any drug use (OR: 0.5, 95% CI: 0.2-0.9), heavy drug use of any kind (OR: 0.5, 95% CI: 0.3-0.9), and heavy marijuana use (OR: 0.6, 95% CI: 0.3-0.97). Those employed in prison were less likely to report any drug use (OR: 0.4, 95% CI: 0.2-0.9). Alcohol users were more likely to report the heavy use of any drug (OR: 2.8, 95% CI: 1.2-6.6), heavy marijuana use (OR: 3.0, 95% CI: 1.3-7.2), and the heavy use of multiple drugs (OR: 5.9, 95% CI: 2.1-16.1).
Discussion: The results indicate that there is a high prevalence of substance use among inmates in Mexican City prisons. Prison programming in Mexico must aggressively explore avenues to curtail use within correctional facilities. In addition to drug treatment programs, encouraging inmate participation in activities that provide avenues for positive social reinforcement (e.g. intimate partner visits and vocational programs) may provide a buffer to the negative social pressures within prison that encourage substance use.