Incarceration among male veterans: relative risk of imprisonment and differences between veteran and nonveteran inmates

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2012 Jun;56(4):646-67. doi: 10.1177/0306624X11406091. Epub 2011 Apr 18.


Using data from national surveys of jail and prison inmates conducted in 2002 and 2004, the authors found that male veterans in the age group that entered military service in the early years of the All Volunteer Force (AVF) were at greater risk of incarceration than nonveterans of similar age and ethnicity, whereas veterans who enlisted in later years of the AVF had less risk of incarceration than nonveterans. Although White veterans tend to have greater risk of incarceration than nonveteran Whites, Black and Hispanic veterans were at less risk than their nonveteran peers, although they are at greater risk than White veterans. These patterns are best explained by changes over time and in differential effects across racial/ethnic groups of recruiting practices, accession standards, and in civilian employment opportunities rather than combat trauma or other adverse experiences in the military. For example, reductions in the relative risk for incarceration of veterans during the AVF appear to generally result from increases in recruit qualifications and socioeconomic status due to greater military pay, improved skill in recruiting, and higher accession standards.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisoners / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • United States
  • Veterans / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult