Predicting Justice Contact in Veterans with PTSD: The Incremental Validity of Specific Risk Factors
Camins, Joshua Seth
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A small, but significant, portion of veterans are involved in the legal system. Recent efforts have created Veteran Treatment Courts, veteran-specific jail units, and veteran homeless outreach programming to address veteran justice-involvement. Further, there is an emerging body of literature identifying empirically supported risk factors for criminal activity in veterans, but additional research is needed. The extant literature highlights a series of general factors (i.e., socio-demographic, criminogenic, and mental health) and military-specific factors (e.g., traumatic brain injury, combat exposure, rank) that are generally associated with veteran anger, aggression, and criminal justice involvement. The current study examined whether socio-demographic, mental health, and deployment-related factors were associated with law enforcement contact in a sample of PTSD diagnosed veterans (N = 98) recruited for a larger study on social cognition and suicide. Participants were all receiving services through the Veteran Affairs Healthcare System, and the majority had previous deployments (83%). The present study examined the impact of general factors (i.e., age, education, financial difficulties, substance use, and PTSD/Depression) and veteran-specific (i.e., TBI and combat exposure) on past 6-month criminal justice contact. Prior to conducting analyses, data were transformed, and principal component analysis (PCA) was used to create a composite mental health score for PTSD/Depression. In a regression model of sociodemographic factors and mental health symptoms, only age was independently associated with legal contact. Additional regression analyses on military service-related factors were not significant but still yielded notable effect sizes. The findings suggest prevention efforts should focus on younger veterans.