Objective: To explore the socio-demographic profile of the Jamaican prison population.
Method: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study that utilized a survey design. The survey included a proportional random sample from seven prisons across the island. The survey questionnaire was interviewer administered by a team of trained interviewers. The survey was based on the Inter-American Uniform Drug Use System (SIDUC) questionnaire. Participation was voluntary.
Results: 647 inmates participated in the study. The respondents were divided into two groups: those on remand, and those that were convicted. Among both categories more males were incarcerated than females. The mean age of convicted respondents was 37.17 years (s.d.+/-11.417). The mean age of remanded respondents was 30.13 years (s.d.+/-8.809). Most inmates were single and reported being self-employed prior to incarceration. Most inmates reported a lifetime use of alcohol, marijuana or tobacco, with marijuana use having the earliest average age of initiation, 15 years. The initiation age range for all three was between the ages of 15 and 17 years. A link was also found between robbery and a lifetime prevalence of marijuana as well as stealing and a lifetime prevalence of crack use. Lifetime prevalence of cocaine use was also significantly associated with recidivism rates among convicted inmates.
Conclusion: The findings of this survey are consistent with international literature. This study provides crucial insight about the interaction and overlapping of the socio-demographic factors that influence the Jamaican prison system.
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