Penal characteristics as predictors of depression in a Southern Nigerian prison
This study examined the penal characteristics acting as predictors of depressive disorders among 400 prison inmates using the stratified random sampling technique and the Depression component of WHO Schedule for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN). Data analysis was performed with the SPSS software package (Version 17) with the test of significance set at p<0.05. Results revealed a prevalence of 14.8% mild depression; 14.2% moderate depression with somatic features; 6.2% severe depression without psychotic features; 4.5% severe depression with psychotic features and an overall prevalence of 37%. Significant penal factors were nature of crime, reasons for delay in trial, and duration of stay. `The most frequently violated criminal code was Criminal code 401 (Armed Robbery). Logistic regression analysis indicated that the strongest predictor of depression was the duration of time spent in prison (or: 1.43, ci=1.19-1.73, p=0.00). Our findings suggest that duration of stay in prison increases the risk of depression among inmates and that the penal predictors for depression during imprisonment could help identify people for mental health interventions. It is recommended that concerned agencies of government should, as a matter of urgent public health importance, consider reforming the criminal justice system to reduce the duration of stay in prisons.
Keywords: Crime, penal, depression, offender, prison population.