The ‘Psychosocial Stress’ of Prison Overcrowding


Time spent in a crowded prison environment continues to have a negative impact on inmates after their release, contributing to parole violations, according to a study published by the nonprofit advocacy organization PLOS (Public Library of Science). The study, entitled “Does Prison Crowding Predict Higher Rates of Substance Use Related Parole Violations? A Recurrent Events Multi-Level Survival Analysis,” is based on data collected in 2003 and 2004 from 13,070 California parolees.

“If crowding does increase a prisoner’s risk of recidivism, this could be explained by the psychosocial stress associated with adverse prison conditions, which may exacerbate decision-making problems (e.g., impulsivity) and problem behaviors (e.g., drug use, aggression) in prison populations,” write authors Michael A. Ruderman , Deirdra F. Wilson and Savanna Reid. “The high prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) in prison populations may also be a factor in the high rates of drug-related recidivism seen among California parolees.”

The rates of parole violations were 2.28 to 2.77 times greater for parolees from highly crowded prisons compared to those from prisons with low levels of crowding, the authors write. They conclude that further research is needed to determine whether prison crowding is associated with recidivism and drug use in particular.

Read the complete study HERE.

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