Research Paper Sample: Depression among Prisoners

Published: 2022-06-07
Research Paper Sample: Depression among Prisoners
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Penal system Mental health Criminal justice
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1673 words
14 min read

Development of a Research Scenario: ABC Design

Contact with the criminal justice system has a psychological impact on the well-being of the victims of crimes. From theoretical perspectives concerning sentencing, it is crystal clear that it is done to offenders to serve the purposes of retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, rehabilitation and restoration. However, attaining this has proved challenging because some of the inmates are suffer from depression during their stay at the prison. Overcrowding, social isolation, violence, lack of privacy, inadequate mental health facilities and effects of the prison sentence are some of the causes of mental disorders among prisoners.

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Once sentenced, most of them undergo assaults from other inmates whereby a few may even succumb to the injuries. However, those who report such cases to the guards end up suffering from escalated depression levels. This results from aggravation of the occurrence whereby those who had inflicted pain on them advance it to even rape (Matsuura et al, 2009). Moreover, some of the officers demand that the casualties provide evidence showing that they were attacked as they claim. Thus, the psychological disturbance continues to affect the victims. Further, signs of negligence from the management inflates stress levels causing some sufferers to commit suicide in the cells as a quick solution to their despondency. Suicidal ideation results from depressive symptoms.

Research question and variables

What is the impact of sentencing on the psychological well-being of victims of crime?

The independent variable in this research is depression. Dependent variables include sociodemographic factors like religious affiliations, age, marital status; previous incarceration; health condition; duration of the sentence and type of offense. Some of the crimes that would have caused custody of these offenders were categorized into sexual, violence such as murder, property, drug and others. Moreover, confinement attributes like period of stay-less; than a year, 1-5 years, 5 and more years; number of inmates per cubicle and record of previous imprisonment. Internment characteristics were further grouped into under-trial and convicted prisoners. Those who used drugs gave a yes or no response while health status before prison and current medical issues was evaluated. An assessment of suicidal ideation was also conducted by analyzing if they had tried committing suicide before and/or within the detention period.

Sampling Strategy and Technique

Simple random sampling method was used to choose the sample unit so as to avoid bias (Guthrie, 2010). The prison authority provided a list of eligible inmates from which an experimental group was selected. The list comprised of inmates who had spent more than three months because they had adapted to prison life, and their psychiatric symptoms will have stabilized. Such happening is normally attributed to aspects like safety, design of the facilities, lack of consumption of alcohol and drugs, and accessibility of health services while at the prison. The sample frame consisted of 850 members. Therefore, we selected a sample size of 265 people. The random numbers were selected using Microsoft Excel 2016. For those who had been selected but failed to avail themselves on the interview day, attempts were done three times for purpose of incorporating them in the study.

Control Techniques Used

Randomization of both control and experimental groups helps in ensuring that results obtained from both parties do not have a significant difference. Control techniques aid in managing internal aspects of the experiment. To start with, subjects need notification of their engagement in an experiment. This makes sure that the participants give their best during the entire procedure and they do not withhold any vital information that could have a fundamental effect on the final outcomes. Therefore, administering treatment will be based on actual facts rather than false data. Secondly, researchers should have full knowledge of experimental protocols. The effectiveness of this is to avoid bias or contamination of the final results. Thirdly, design of the testing process should be expounded to increase the number of groups that have not undergone pre-test. It is usually done when there are suspicions of the process influencing the final outcome (Davis et al 2008).

Major Threats to Validity

Passage of time may have a negative effect on the experimental results obtained. Main aspects of this include history, maturation, change in experimenter's demeanor, and repeated testing. Contributors of the research may give wrong results if their history reflects experiences unrelated to the case study but affects their performance in feedback delivery. Their thinking may be corrupted by previous happenings in their life. According to Sani and Todman (2008), the researcher may at times attribute changes from an experiment to his or her own manipulations but they could have resulted from maturational transformations. In other cases, repeating tests may improve results since the participants become familiar at using some strategies to solve the items appearing in the tests. Shift of the way of conducting the research whereby it may move from hesitation in the first days, diligence and accuracy at the middle while the end may be characterized by boredom and slackness.

Henderson et al (2013), predisposes that group threats arise out of challenges in how experimental conditions are allocated to participants. Selection-maturation interaction occurs when participants fail to coincide both in maturational factors and the experimenter's manipulations. Reactivity threats originate from reactions of participants to the experimental situation. In some instances, the experimenter may act in bias leading respondents into giving false information. This happens when the experimenter uses his personal beliefs and expectations to make the participants respond in line with his or her formulated hypothesis. If the control group becomes aware of its status, their reaction may affect the final outcome positively or negatively. For example, they could resent missing out on some of the crucial benefits accrued to the participants or they could perform excellently in an effort to out-do the research group ("SAGE Books - The Problem", 2018).

How to Deal with the Threats

Most of the threats to validity are conveniently overcome by being vigilant about the experimental design employed. Post-test only/control group design will be used because it allows allocation of participants in a random manner from one group to another. This ensures that the only systematic difference between them is the one generated by the experimenter. Another design effective to this is pre-test/post-test control group allows everyone to undergo a pre-test to make sure that the two parties are comparable at the beginning before administering it to the experimental group. In experimenting depression, we could use music as a determinant of mood by randomly choosing one group to listen to sad music and the other to happy music. To avoid disproportionate results, one may use a questionnaire to evaluate the mood before participants listen to music. Solomon four-group design makes use of two experimental and two control groups to prove whether pre-testing has in itself affected participant's behavior.

Reactivity threats are solved by designing the study in such a way that the participants do not understand what the experiment entails. They engage in the entire experiment out of ignorance but with the comprehension that they will be given the relevant information in the long run (Myers and Hansen, 2012). Experimenters demeanor may be curbed in two ways. Firstly, the research process requires automation whereby the guidelines offered should be standard. Such instructions can be given electronically via computers or just on a sheet of paper. Secondly, researchers should ensure that how the method used to conduct the study is free of systematic differences between group participants. In case the control group realizes its purpose, the investigator may promise them rotation of roles such that they would also experience the experimental effect while the other group goes ahead to play the role of control.

Observations and Their Rationale

29.98% of the experimented inmates showed symptoms of depression as indicated by their score for the variables used. Statistical analysis showed that socio-demographic factors had minimal influence on the rate of depression among the inmates (Mills and Krooner, 2005). Those who had previously been detained manifested high chances of melancholy. There was no correlation between number of people per cell, kind of offense, period of jailtime, conviction or under-trial basis with the prevalence of despondency. Alcohol and drug use before internment had an insignificant effect on the spread of depressive symptoms among them (Vaeroy, 2011). However, spread of depression had a significant positive correlation to health status whereby it was more evident to those who recorded their health as poor (Arrigo and Bullock, 2007). Moreover, those who contacted medical personnel frequently had showed more signs of possible despondency. In most cases, health issues reported were either physical or sexual. Furthermore, those who had suicide ideas or had attempted it had a high rate of depression, 69.97%.

Relevant Variables and Observations

Prevalence of Depression Among Inmates

Variable Categories Depression (n %)

Presence Absence

Age Less Than 40 Yrs 33.67% 66.33%

More Than 40 Yrs 37.9% 62.1%

Religion Christian 35.5% 64.5%

Others 31.7% 68.3%

Marital Status Unmarried 33.8% 66.2%

Ever Married 34.9% 65.1%

Previous Incarceration No 33.2% 66.8%

Yes 50.8% 49.2%

Number Of People Per Cell 5135.6% 64.4%

>5031.4% 68.6%

Type Of Crime Violence 32.1% 67.9%

Sexual Offense 39.9% 60.1%

Drug-Related 31.3% 68.7%

Property 38.8% 61.2%

Others 41.1% 58.9%

Detention Period 130.9% 69.1%

1-534.9% 65.1%

>540.2% 59.8%

Imprisonment Status Conviction 35.6% 64.4%

Under-Trial 31.9% 68.1%

Alcohol And Substance Use Yes 31.4% 62.6%

No 34.5% 65.5%

Health Status Good 25.2% 74.8%

Poor 51.2% 48.8%

Suicide Ideation Yes 73.0% 27.0%

No 33.9% 66.1%

Limitations to Experimental Design

Experiments are usually conducted under controlled environments, a situation that does not reflect real-life happenings. For this reason, the results obtained from the participants may not their true behaviors under normal surrounding. According to Campbell and Stanley (2011), the design may also generate artificial situations that cannot be applied in real life due to the regulation exerted on the relevant variables. Further, extraneous variables prove really difficult to manage such that some may be unknown to the experimenter but affecting the responses of the test subjects. Validity of the outcomes generated by the experimental designs is easily affected by human errors. In most cases, the method focuses on attaining internal validity. However, all means are employed to achieve it at the expense of external validity (Benefits and Limitations of Experimental Research - Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching, 2018).


Arrigo, B., & Bullock, J. (2007). The Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners in Supermax Units. International Journal Of Offender Therapy And Comparative Criminology, 52(6), 622-640. doi: 10.1177/0306624x07309720

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