Committee Chair

Crittenden, Courtney A.

Committee Member

Policastro, Christina; Garland, Tammy S.


Dept. of Criminal Justice and Legal Assistant Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Previous literature has shown that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a factor in future criminal behavior, victimization, and overall health (DeLisi et al., 2017; Mersky et al., 2013; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Research has also found that co-occurring disorders (CODs) are prevalent among inmates with approximately half of inmates meeting the criteria of mental health and substance use disorders in previous studies (Butler et al., 2011; James & Glaze, 2006). The current study explores the relationship between ACEs and CODs, specifically in the areas of substance use and mental health. This study utilizes a secondary data analysis of an Inmate History and Needs survey completed by 166 inmates (59 females, 107 males) from three different rural jails in a southern state. Specifically, I examine if there is a relationship between ACEs and CODs among inmates. Additionally, I explore if CODs differ among male and female inmates and the relationship between parents, CODs, and living with their children prior to arrest.


The completion and submission of this master’s thesis was certainly not done alone. First, I must express my gratitude and admiration for my chair, Dr. Courtney Crittenden. Dr. Crittenden has provided invaluable mentorship, as well as unlimited support, encouragement, and guidance in the completion of this project. Thank you, Dr. Crittenden, for being a constant source of inspiration in pursuit of gender and social equality. I aspire to follow in your footsteps. I would also like to thank Dr. Christina Policastro and Dr. Tammy Garland for their vast statistical knowledge and expertise on the topics explored in this research process. Thank you to all of my committee members for their time, advice, effort, and dedication to my success. I must also thank Dr. Rick Dierenfeldt for sharing the data used in this research project without hesitation. However, my gratitude is based greatly in his unwavering faith in me as a person as well as an academic. Thank you, Dr. Dierenfeldt, for not only pushing me to pursue a master’s degree, but for also answering every email and/or call at any time of the day. Most importantly, thank you for constantly having a pot of coffee ready in the office for anyone in need. I would also like to thank my family and friends who have been there for me through this experience. Thank you to my mom, dad, sister, aunt, and uncle for being the ultimate support system. You all have been an integral aspect of my success as well as my source of love and laughter during the stressful time of graduate school during a pandemic. I can never accurately express the level of gratitude I have for the life you all have given me. I would never be where I am today without each one of you.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Prisoners--Mental health; Prisoners--Substance use; Psychic trauma in children


Adverse childhood experiences; Co-occurring disorders, Mental health issues, Substance use, jail inmates, childhood trauma

Document Type

Masters theses




ix, 48 leaves