The United States maintains the largest prison population, the highest rates of incarceration, and the highest percentage of female prisoners in the industrialized world. California reports the third-highest population of female inmates in the country, though a lower-than-average rate of female incarceration (4.4% vs. 7.3% nationally). With more than 75% of jail inmates leaving prison within a year, and with an additional 600,000 state and federal prisoners returning home each year (women account for between 7–25% annually), many thousands of formerly incarcerated women (releasees) reenter American society every day. Reentering society after incarceration is a difficult and often unsuccessful process; approximately two-thirds of releasees rearrested within three years (recidivism). Health may make this transition even more difficult, particularly for women. Ninety percent of female releasees report chronic health conditions upon release. Two-thirds of returning women report chronic physical conditions; one-third of returning women report mental health problems; and about 66% report substance abuse problems upon release. For senior women, these challenges are worsened by addional senior health needs. Our study suggest that health is intimately related to successful reentry, especially for senior women, both because mental and physical illnesses create risks for reincarceration, and also because barriers to good health reduce the quality of life for returning women and their families, particularly senior women. Since most releasees reenter prison within three years, examining women's long-term health needs may inform interventions that provide longer-term successful reentry, and improve senior women's extended health and quality of life.
Health, Incarceration, Women's Health, Prisoner Reentry, Prisoner Health, Mental Health
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Associate Professor; Director, Health Policy & Management Graduate Program, Health Policy and Management, Mount Saint Mary's University, United States