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.