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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 61 (2019) 4, 257 - 266


Mental health symptoms among prisoners: psychometric properties of the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)

A.J.E. Dirkzwager, P. Nieuwbeerta

background Mental health problems are common in prison populations. Imprisonment may provide important opportunities to improve prisoners’ mental health. To do so, it is important to systematically identify prisoners with mental health problems as soon as possible.
aim To examine the psychometric properties of the Brief Symptom Inventory (bsi) among male prisoners.
method A total of 1,624 male prisoners filled out the bsi. The following psychometric properties of the bsi scales were examined: distribution, internal consistency, inter-item correlations, and the factor structure. To examine the (criterion) validity, the bsi scores of different groups were compared.
results Cronbach’s α’s of the bsi scales ranged from 0.97 to 0.76. In general, the observed factor structure resembled the intended nine bsi scales. Prisoners reported significantly higher scores on the bsi than men from the general population, but had lower scores than male psychiatric patients. Prisoners who had been treated for mental disorders prior to their detention, scored significantly higher than prisoners who had not.
conclusion The bsi showed reliable scales among prisoners and is well able to distinguish between different groups. key words Brief Symptom Inventory, prisoners, psychiatry, psychometric properties