Mil Med. 2022 Aug 27:usac257. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usac257. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Veterans and service members (V/SM) may have more risk factors for arrest and felony incarceration (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder and at-risk substance use) but also more protective factors (e.g., access to health care) to mitigate behaviors that may lead to arrest. As such, understanding which factors are associated with criminal justice involvement among V/SM could inform prevention and treatment efforts. The current study examined relationships between lifetime history of arrests and felony incarceration and sociodemographic, psychological, and brain injury characteristics factors among combat V/SM.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The current study was a secondary data analysis from the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium multicenter cohort study, approved by local institutional review boards at each study site. Participants were V/SM (N = 1,540) with combat exposure (19% active duty at time of enrollment) who were recruited from eight Department of Veterans Affairs and DoD medical centers and completed a baseline assessment. Participants were predominantly male (87%) and white (72%), with a mean age of 40 years (SD = 9.7). Most (81%) reported a history of at least one mild traumatic brain injury, with one-third of those experiencing three or more mild traumatic brain injuries (33%). Participants completed a self-report measure of lifetime arrest and felony incarceration history, a structured interview for all potential concussive events, the post-traumatic stress disorder checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption. Three groups were compared on self-reported level of lifetime history of criminal justice system involvement: (1) no history of arrest or incarceration (65%); (2) history of arrest but no felony incarceration (32%); and (3) history of felony incarceration (3%).
RESULTS: Ordinal regression analyses revealed that hazardous alcohol consumption (β = .44, P < .001; odds ratio = 1.56) was positively associated with increased criminal justice involvement after adjusting for all other variables. Being married or partnered (β = -.44, P < .001; odds ratio = 0.64) was negatively associated with decreased criminal justice involvement.
CONCLUSIONS: The rate of lifetime arrest (35%) in this V/SM sample was consistent with rates of arrests in the U.S. general population. One modifiable characteristic associated with lifetime arrest and felony incarceration was hazardous alcohol consumption. Alcohol use should be a top treatment target for V/SM at risk for arrest and those with history of criminal justice involvement.