Implementing Trauma-Informed Care in Jail Settings

Implementing Trauma-Informed Care in a Jail Setting

Experiences of trauma are nearly universal among incarcerated men and women. Unaddressed trauma symptoms can lead to mental health and substance use disorder symptoms, and reflecting a vicious cycle, unaddressed symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders can lead to high prevalence rates of lifetime traumatic experiences. While we know less about those held in local jails when compared to state and federal prisoners, estimates suggest that rates of trauma, and mental health and substance use disorders are amplified among the jail population.

Jails across the country struggle to find ways to best respond to the symptoms and consequences of lifetime traumatic experiences such as mental health problems, substance use disorders, impulsivity, and aggression. We have partnered with the John E. Polk Correctional Facility – the Seminole County jail – in Sanford, Florida to pilot test an innovative, evidence-driven trauma intervention entitled ‘Skills Training on Affective and Interpersonal Regulation’ or STAIR. STAIR is a flexible, short-term intervention designed to address the unique needs of individuals who have experienced trauma. Our work with incarcerated adults in the jail will begin during custody and continue in the community after an individual is released.

We will examine the impact of STAIR on improving well-being, increasing positive coping, and decreasing symptom burden. We will also track reincarceration to evaluate whether providing trauma treatment mitigates risk for returning to jail.