LU News Archive

facebook twitter Linkedin Email

Zendejas awarded best paper for study on substance abuse patterns of inmates

Miroslava Zendejas’s paper “A Qualitative Assessment of Substance Abuse Patterns of Inmates in a Correctional Facility within Southeast Texas” was named best paper at the Third Annual Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education Conference at Lamar University.

The 30+ page paper focused on Zendejas’ research about mental health and drug abuse among inmates in correctional facilities. Zendejas, a resident of Baytown and a 2013 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, graduated from LU Friday (December 16, 2016) with a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a minor in legal studies.

ZendjasZendejas delivered the undergraduate address during the College of Arts and Sciences’ commencement program and plans to attend graduate or law school.

“The director of the criminal justice program, Dr. Eric Bronson, was very helpful during my orientation,” Zendejas said.  “He gave me insight about the criminal justice department, which ultimately led to me picking that as a major and career choice.”

“I joined the McNair Scholars Program which helped fund the research for my paper,” she said. The research, which took approximately five months, included “face-to-face interviews at the Jefferson County correctional facility, where the inmates were very nice and cooperative.”

Zenedejas sought overviews of each inmate’s life and background, how it affected them and led to their drug abuse. “My research had a lot to do with substance abuse, drug use patterns, finding out what triggers drug use, such as sexual abuse while growing up,” she said. “Sexual abuse plays a prominent role in female offenders in their drug use.”

Zendejas wants to see an increase in educational opportunities for inmates and in the number of mental health institutions.

“In the ’70s, a lot of mental health centers were closed down. Prisons are one of the main mental health facilities that we have today that help individuals with mental illness.” Zendejas describes her focus as  “helping minorities and the under privileged.”

Most of the inmates didn’t complete a high school education. “They get out, couldn’t find a job because they don’t have the education or credentials, and to survive they resort to using and selling drugs. A degree will help keep these people out of jail,” she said.  Zendejas interviewed 15 inmates of whom only two completed a college degree.

Zendejas wants to break the stereotypes about incarcerated adults. “I want to change the outlook and mentality that people have about those who use and abuse drugs where we just lock up substance abusers, and throwing away the key. There are other solutions. The system is not doing enough to rehabilitate these offenders.”

Through LU, Zendejas has participated in internship opportunities with the Beaumont Police Department and the District Attorney's Office for Jefferson County, received training for grad school under the McNair Scholar’s Program and completed her summer research under the Beck Fellowship. She has also received the McMaster Honors Scholarship and the Tom F. and Ann D. Jones Honors Scholarship.