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Analysis of Program Needs of Prison Inmates in Washington State

NCJ Number
T M Sykes; R L Riccolo; J K Thompson
Date Published
147 pages
Based on data collected from a representative sample of inmates and counselors in Washington's adult correctional facilities in 1979, this document provides information on inmates' demographic and health characteristics, inmate participation in prison programs, and transitional services.
The study's total sample was comprised of 557 inmates from 6 adult correctional facilities, 18 inmates from the Mental Health Unit, and 94 staff counselors. Inmate records were examined, and all participants completed a questionnaire. Following a summary of the data collection methods used, characteristics of the inmate population are described, including age, ethnicity, marital status, number of children, residence, employment history, education, and criminal history. Of the inmate group, 20 percent reported chronic health conditions, and levels of satisfaction with medical and dental ervies varied greatly by institution. Data on metal health indicated that 22 percent of all inmates exhibited as much or more psychological distress as did the average community mental health center client and that 22 percent had spent some time in a psychiatric facility. The study found that 66 percent of the inmates had used drugs during the year prior to their arrest, but that existing alcohol and drug programs were inadequate to meet inmates' demands. At the time of the survey, 13 percent were enrolled in basic education programs and 24 percent were taking general college courses. Unfilled demand for vocational training programs was considerably higher than for educational programs, and 63 percent said they would enroll in training for skilled mechanical and construction trades and business occupations if available. Of all institutional programs, work assignments involved the highest participation rates, manifested the highest satisfaction levels, and evoked the highest demand among inmates. Few inmates had participated in counseling, but prisoners were interested in prerelease counseling that focused on practical problemsolving. Communication by letter and phone calls with friends and relatives was more likely to occur than visits. Footnotes and tabular data are provided. The appendixes contain tables comparing the study sample to the prison population and contingency table analyses of response bias. (Author summary modified)