Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Social Work

First Advisor

Saunders, Jeanne A

First Committee Member

Sanders, Sara

Second Committee Member

Baller, Robert

Third Committee Member

Coohey, Carol

Fourth Committee Member

Heimer, Karen


Careful review of the literature found prison programs having a positive impact on post-release outcomes in employment and lowered recidivism rates. Most of the literature reviewed found negative effects of mental illness on post-release success. This study expands the literature on prison programming and mental illness by examining the dynamics between mental illness, program completion, and post-release success. Furthermore, this research can be linked to Hirschi's social bond theory, which created a framework to view the relationship between prison programming and increased ties to conventional society through commitment, attachment, and involvement. This study examines the impact of mental illness and prison vocational and educational programming on reentry outcomes (employment rates, length of employment, enrollment in and completion of school, and recidivism) and the relationship between mental illness and program completion. Additionally, the study examines the interactions of mental illness and prison programming on reentry outcomes. The sample consists of male offenders released onto parole in the State of Iowa (N=3426). Vocational training had positive significant effects on employment rates and full-time employment. An additional analysis found a significant indirect relationship between vocational training and recidivism through employment. Mental illness had a negative significant impact on completion of vocational programming, GED classes, and employment outcomes. Furthermore, it was found that having a mental illness significantly increased the likelihood of recidivism. The interaction of mental illness and programming on reentry outcomes did not have a significant impact. However, the interaction of mental illness and vocational programming had a positive significant impact on full-time employment in the opposite direction of prediction. The results inform social work practice and policy on the benefits of prison programming and the negative impact of mental illness on participation in programs and reentry outcomes.


mental illness, prison


ix, 146 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 103-109).


Copyright 2010 Beth Ann Skinner