Sociological Forum

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 431–455 | Cite as

Social Integration and Mental Well-Being Among Jail Inmates

  • Christine H. Lindquist


Although social integration has consistently been linked to mental well-being among the general population, this relationship has not been explored for persons confined in total institutions. Jails, in particular, represent unique conditions that have the potential to alter the traditional relationship between social ties and mental health. Although previously unexamined, social ties maintained by jail inmates outside and inside of the institution are commonly presumed to weaken some of the adverse effects of a stressful environment and positively influence mental health. The current study explores the impact of social integration on mental well-being among 198 male and female inmates incarcerated in a large county jail. The impact of marital status, parental status, and social support (both inside and outside of the jail) on various dimensions of mental health was examined. The results indicate that rather than promoting mental well-being, social relationships inside and outside of the institution are associated with higher levels of distress. Specifically, married inmates report higher levels of depression and anxiety, and inmates with close social relationships inside of the jail report higher levels of hostility, although gender differences in these patterns are evident. The results of this study suggest that social integration may play a different role for persons incarcerated in total institutions than among the general population due to the unique conditions of social stigmatization and separation from support networks.

total institutions jail inmates social support gender differences mental health 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine H. Lindquist
    • 1
  1. 1.Health and Social Policy DivisionResearch Triangle InstituteResearch Triangle Park

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