The Association Between Criminal Defendants and Health in Kalamazoo County (2012-2016)

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Kathleen Baker, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Catherine Kothari, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Benjamin Ofori-Amoah, Ph.D.


Crime, defendants, health, poor birth outcomes, social vulnerability

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Addressing exposure to criminal defendants as a public health issue is crucial to achieving health equity. The presence of criminal defendants has been linked to adverse health behaviors or outcomes that might be associated with anxiety, depression, and negative coping mechanisms. However, crime as a social variable has been understudied. This study therefore seeks to find the association between crime-related stressors and adverse health effects within Kalamazoo County (a mid-sized county with a population of about 250,000) between 2012 and 2016. The methods employed include geocoding of defendant addresses and mapping of defendant rates aggregated at the tract level using ArcGIS Pro 3.0 using a defendant database made available by the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office. Adult health data (2018) were obtained from the CDC’s Places dataset and birth outcomes data were obtained from Michigan Vital Statistics through the Kalamazoo Department of Health and Community Services. The social vulnerability index and related variables for 2016 were also obtained from the CDC. Pearson’s and Spearman’s correlations were used to assess the relationship between arrests, adult health, birth outcome and social vulnerability. Preliminarily, results indicate a strong positive relationship among defendant population in a census tract and at-risk behaviors such as lack of physical activity and sleep, and cigarette smoking. Interestingly the crime variables had a negative relationship with binge drinking. The rate of defendants in a tract was positively correlated with chronic disease (stroke, heart disease) and negatively correlated with health management rates (diabetes testing and cancer screenings). Poor birth outcomes were also correlated to crime patterns, but to a lesser degree than adult health. Patterns in census variables contributing to social vulnerability were examined with respect to health and defendant variables. Overall, the high degree of correlation between adult health, vulnerability and prevalence of defendants in a census tract suggests that crime is inextricably linked to individual and community health in vulnerable areas.

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