Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

34P Asian American Men with Corrections System Involvement: Are Disparities Visible?

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Junghee Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Lew Bank, PhD, Senior Scientist, Oregon Social Learning Center, Portland, OR
Angela Cause, MSW, Research Associate, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Bowen McBeath, Associate Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Purpose. Theory suggests substance use is predictive of corrections involvement. There is almost a complete absence of information regarding demographics, substance use, and illegal activity patterns of adult Asian-American offenders living in communities (Johnson & Betsinger, 2009). Research capacity to understand public health risks and service needs for Asian-Americans and their families is inadequate; and the lack of information make it difficult to develop intervention programs as well as public policy appropriate for this population (CMMHR, 2007). Corresponding to these urgent needs, this study aims to: (a) compare demographics, socioeconomic background and family constellation of Asian-American men to other men in the criminal justice system; and (b) test the predictive power of substance use and demographic variables in accounting for arrest frequency and likelihood of incarceration.

Methods. Assessments were conducted via face-to-face interviews for 192 participants living in communities in Oregon: N = 192, with 112 men (34 Asian-Americans, 21 other men of color, 57 Whites). Measures included demographics, substance use, and corrections involvement histories. Staff ratings of participant comprehension and substance use were collected. Corrections involvement was assessed in two ways: by self-report and archival-record. Data analysis utilized bivariate and OLS/logistic regression.

Results. Non-White men experienced higher rates of incarceration than White men; rates for Asian-American men were similar to other men of color. Some unique characteristics in the Asian-American men were revealed. They reported higher education levels, but fewer hours employed and greater unemployment; they were also less likely to receive unemployment insurance or food stamps. All of the men consumed alcohol at high rates, but Asian-American men were arrested and convicted significantly less often than other men for alcohol related offenses. Asian-American men self-reported lower levels of substance use and corrections involvement, and were assessed by project staff to be at reduced risk for substance use; however, archival records of arrests and convictions were not different from other men for drug related offenses. These findings help fill a gap in criminal justice research regarding adult Asian-American offenders living in the community. While African-Americans/Blacks suffer the most serious disparities with corrections involvement, findings suggest that Asian-American men are also likely to fare more poorly than White men upon entering the corrections system, and are less likely to benefit from public services as compared to other men.

Conclusions. Asian-cultural values are likely to attach personal and family shame to reporting individual and family problems as well as asking for outside help. These culturally-embedded values may undermine efforts to provide public services to underserved families and may confirm for service entities the idea that there is reduced need for social workers and other services in many Asian-American communities. Awareness of the Asian-cultural values and socio-cultural characteristics of adult Asian-American offenders living in communities are needed in order to develop culturally-competent intervention programs as well as public policy appropriate for this population. Generalizability from study findings may be limited because the sample included small numbers of Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean men, and many cultural differences exist among these groups.