Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Michael Lewis

Committee Members

Harriet Goodman

Kim Blankenship

Kristin Ferguson

Subject Categories

Social Work


Trauma, Incarceration, Reentry, Recidivism


The United States incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other nation in the world. It is estimated that 14 million people will be incarcerated at some point in their lives in the United States. Ninety-five percent of incarcerated people will return to the community. Persons who have been incarcerated often have experienced higher rates of trauma than the general population. The symptoms associated with exposure to trauma may interfere with a person’s ability to reconnect with family, interact with parole/probation, stay free from drugs/alcohol, or find and maintain stable housing and employment after they are released from prison. As increasing numbers of people are released from prison into the community, greater attention must be paid to their mental health needs after release in order to address the needs of the complete person rather than just focusing solely on their basic needs and the requirements of community supervision.

Analyzing secondary data from baseline surveys and Connecticut Department of Corrections records during the two-year follow-up period of a National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded longitudinal study of people recently released from jail or prison, this dissertation explores the relationship between self-reported exposure to trauma over the life course and recidivism after release from jail or prison. This study will examine a sample of previously incarcerated people and describe their exposure to trauma, with a focus on trauma and recidivism among Black men. Survival analysis will be used to examine the relationship between magnitude of trauma, including the frequency and severity of trauma experienced, and whether those experiences are predictive of recidivism.

Trauma exposure was measured using the My Exposure to Violence (MyETV) instrument, and responses were used to create a weighted score that accounted for both the frequency and the severity of trauma exposure for each participant. Univariate analysis revealed that 85% of the study participants were male and 47% of the total sample were Black. When trauma exposure was examined, analysis revealed that 80% had witnessed a traumatic event, 73.9% were victims of a traumatic event, 80.4% had both witnessed and directly experienced a traumatic event, and 83% had experienced four or more traumatic events in their lifetimes. The mean Trauma Exposure Score was 9.33. Survival analysis revealed that Blacks and men were at increased risk for recidivism, and that for each unit increase in the Trauma Exposure Score, the hazard rate increased by 2.6%.

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