Trauma, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, and associated problems among incarcerated veterans

Psychiatr Serv. 2001 Jul;52(7):959-64. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: To help improve treatment for incarcerated veterans, the study examined exposure to trauma, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), functional status, and treatment history in a group of incarcerated veterans.

Methods: A convenience sample of 129 jailed veterans who agreed to receive outreach contact completed the Life Event History Questionnaire, the PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C), and the Addiction Severity Index. Participants who had scores of 50 or above on the PCL-C, designated as screening positive for PTSD, were compared with those whose scores were below 50, designated as screening negative for PTSD.

Results: Some 112 veterans (87 percent) reported traumatic experiences. A total of 51 veterans (39 percent) screened positive for PTSD, and 78 veterans (60 percent) screened negative. Compared with veterans who screened negative for PTSD, those who screened positive reported a greater variety of traumas; more serious current legal problems; a higher lifetime use of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin; higher recent expenditures on drugs; more psychiatric symptoms; and worse general health despite more previous psychiatric and medical treatment as well as treatment for substance abuse.

Conclusions: The findings encourage the development of an improved treatment model to keep jailed veterans with PTSD from repeated incarceration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisons*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington / epidemiology