Self-stigma of incarceration and its impact on health and community integration

Chelsea E. Brehmer, Sang Qin, Brigette C. Young, David R. Strauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Individuals returning to the wider community from incarceration face many re-entry barriers, including stigmatising beliefs regarding past criminal record, that have impact on health and re-entry. Understanding the development and impact of self-stigma on health can inform re-entry and rehabilitation services. Aims: The two aims of this study were first, to evaluate a previously established model of self-stigma applied to individuals who have experienced incarceration and, secondly, to study the impact of self-stigma on physical and mental health as well as community integration on re-entry. Methods: This is a cross-sectional study of 129 formerly incarcerated adults recruited using an online platform and asked to complete online rating scales about self-stigmatisation, health and sense of community integration. Repeated-measures analysis of variance, correlation analysis, and path analyses were used to evaluate the model. Results: There was support for the four distinct stages of self-stigmatisation apparent in mental health research. There was a relationship between self-stigma harm and sense of community integration, mediated by mental but not physical health status scores. Conclusion: Our findings add to work on self-stigmatisation in the field of mental health by showing that the concept appears relevant and appears in similar staging among formerly incarcerated individuals and that self-stigmatisation is likely to be important for their community reintegration. Our sample was not typical of the wider prison population for race and gender distribution, in particular having fewer than expected those minority groups likely to be especially vulnerable to stigmatisation by others. Our findings nevertheless suggest that further, preferably, longitudinal research on self-stigma to enable better understanding of pathways could substantially help treatment and rehabilitation of individuals after release from a correctional facility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages15
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • community integration
  • incarceration
  • mental health
  • re-entry
  • self-stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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