The Catholic University of America

Mental Health Issues, Self-Concept, and Interpersonal Relationships

as Predictors of Recidivism: Exploring Correctional Adaptation

Dr. Michelle Renee Cook


Approximately 15% of incarcerated men and women experience severe acute and chronic mental illness (Sigurdson, 2000).  According to Roskes, Feldman, Arrington, and Leisher (1999) this is an “abuse of jails as mental hospitals” (p.462).  A quarter of inmates report prior treatment for mental illness and 20% to 40% of those with mental illness will have at least one contact with the criminal justice system in their lifetime (Castillo & Alarid, 2011). Today, largely due to a failure to provide adequate resources and treatment models, many with chronic mental illness demonstrate high levels of recidivism into the criminal justice system.  This study analyzed the relationship between mental illness, self-concept, and interpersonal relationships to explain variance in recidivism. The primary hypothesis was that those with mental illness, an inadequate self-concept, and poor interpersonal relationships would be more likely to have higher levels of recidivism.  The secondary hypothesis examined differences using these same variables on recidivism by type of offender.  This study contributes to the knowledge of social work and criminal justice research by further establishing that there may be a correlation between individual psychological dynamics and recidivism.  This research is a secondary analysis of data using the National Longitudinal Youth Survey beginning in 1997 (NLSY97), which consists of a sample of approximately 9,000 youths who were 12 to 16 years old as of December 31, 1996.  The sample population for this analysis includes 2,883 participants. An individual had to have a least one arrest to be included in this study.  Findings partially support both hypotheses and give merit for the need for further research in this area.  The findings show a paradoxical relationship between mental health scores; this indicates that while the results may not have been as predicted, it reveals that mental illness is related to recidivism. The findings support the pivotal role that interpersonal relationships play in recidivism. This study revealed that one aspect of self-concept, negative perceptions of the future in 2000, was a predictor of recidivism.  There was a difference among the different groups, as classified according to their crime/arrest history, indicating that the impact of these variables was varied among the groups.