Predictors of drug use in prison among incarcerated black men

  • Rowell T
  • Wu E
  • Hart C
 et al. 
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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Black men currently comprise a substantial percentage of prisoners in the United States. Drug dependence is common among prison populations, and US prisons are high-risk environments for drug use. Prison drug use exacerbates health problems disproportionately prevalent among Black men and prisoners.

OBJECTIVES: The goal of this research was to examine predictors of prison drug use among incarcerated Black men.

METHODS: This study examined drug use within the prison environment in a random sample of 134 Black men incarcerated in maximum-security correctional institution. The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) was used to measure illicit drug use history and the extent to which drug use occurred within the prison environment.

RESULTS: Seventy-five percent of the participants reported a history of illicit drug use. Overall, 20% (n 25) of the participants, or 25% of those with a history of drug use, reported using drugs during a time frame consistent with incarceration. Participants with lengthier histories of drug use (OR: 1.1, 95% CI 1.0-1.2) and those who were incarcerated longer (OR: 1.1, 95% CI 1.0-1.2) were more likely to use drugs in prison. Drug use in prison was associated with history of injection drug use and with probation/parole status when arrested.

CONCLUSIONS: Prisoners are engaging in illicit drug use while incarcerated, suggesting that they could benefit from harm reduction and drug treatment services offered during incarceration.

SCIENTIFIC SIGNIFICANCE: Drug treatment programs that address long-standing addictions and coping mechanisms for lengthy prison stays, specifically, would be especially useful for this population.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Black men
  • Prisoners
  • Substance use

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Authors

  • Tawandra L. Rowell

  • Elwin Wu

  • Carl L. Hart

  • Rahwa Haile

  • Nabila El-Bassel

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