Criminal Justice Contact and Health Service Utilization among Women across Health Care Settings: Analyzing the Role of Arrest

Published:February 01, 2019DOI:



      It is well-established in the United States that incarceration negatively influences women's health, and researchers have called for examinations of the health effects of criminal justice contact more broadly. This study uses the behavioral model for vulnerable populations to document the prevalence of illness and health risks for recently arrested women, and examines potential ways that illness and health risks are associated with health service use across health care settings.


      We conducted a mediation analysis using pooled data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2010–2014).


      These findings reveal that recent arrest is associated with different types of health care use among women. Specifically, women recently arrested are hospitalized and seek care at the emergency department at higher rates than non–recently arrested women and this may be associated with their vulnerable mental and behavioral health status.


      The findings suggest an increasing overlap between criminal justice and public health sectors. Increased access to appropriate health services is a necessary strategy to reduce resource intensive hospitalizations and emergency department use among women experiencing a recent arrest.
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      Kathryn M. Nowotny, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at University of Miami Department of Sociology. Her research explores how mass incarceration contributes to health inequalities and the contextual influences on health more broadly for vulnerable populations.


      Anastasiia Kuptsevych-Timmer, MA, is a PhD student at the University of Miami. Her research interests include causes of violence and delinquency, health of vulnerable populations, and cross-national research.


      Carrie Oser, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Associate Director of the Center for Health Equity Transformation at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests include addiction health services, health disparities, HIV risk behaviors/interventions, and social networks.