Objective: To identify the health needs of adolescent males incarcerated in a juvenile justice facility and to compare their health profiles with those of male adolescents in the community.
Methods: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted of incarcerated (N = 202) and school (N = 379) samples of male youths. Questionnaires were self-administered and completed before admission health screens (incarcerated youth) or in classrooms (school sample). Health status was assessed by the Child Health and Illness Profile, Adolescent Edition, using scale and item means and by categorizing each youth's pattern of health into 1 of 13 mutually exclusive health profile types.
Results: Compared with school counterparts, incarcerated male youths had significantly worse health status as demonstrated by poorer health and functioning scores in perceived well being, self-esteem, physical discomfort, acute, chronic, and psychosocial disorders, family involvement, physical activity, interpersonal problem-solving, risk behaviors, and academic performance. Three profile types-High Risks, High Risks/Low Resilience, and Worst Health-accounted for patterns of health for 69.8% of incarcerated youth versus 37.3% of an age-matched school sample. Just 6.4% of incarcerated males were in the Excellent/Good Health profile types, which contrasted with 34.2% of the age-matched school sample.
Conclusions: The health profiles of incarcerated male youths were worse than those of male youths in school. Our results indicate that rehabilitation programs will need to address incarcerated youth's basic health needs as well as modifying their risk and antisocial behaviors.