Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

2014 Edition
| Editors: Gerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd

Mortality After Release from Prison

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_332


Studies from Europe, Australia, the United States and Taiwan have shown that the rate of mortality in ex-prisoners is elevated in the weeks immediately following release, compared with subsequent weeks. These studies have also shown that mortality rates in ex-prisoners remain elevated, compared with the non-institutionalized population, for many years post-release. Several mechanisms have been hypothesized to explain the elevated risk and a key debate relates to the relative contribution of incarceration itself and the high level of underlying risk among former inmates. Preventive efforts need further development and evaluation, and methodological limitations hinder synthesis of the literature.


Correctional services have a duty of care to prisoners in their charge, and in most jurisdictions, deaths in custody are closely monitored (Curnow and Larsen 2009; Noonan 2010). In Australia for example, deaths in police custody and in prison are routinely monitored and...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Recommended Reading and References

  1. Adams J, Nowels C, Corsi K, Long J, Steiner JF, Binswanger IA (2011) HIV risk after release from prison: a qualitative study of former inmates. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 57(5):429–434Google Scholar
  2. AIHW (2011) The health of Australia’s prisoners 2010. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  3. Binswanger IA, Stern MF, Deyo RA, Heagerty PJ, Cheadle A, Elmore JG et al (2007) Release from prison – a high risk of death for former inmates. N Engl J Med 356(2):157–165Google Scholar
  4. Binswanger IA, Blatchford PJ, Lindsay RG, Stern MF (2011a) Risk factors for all-cause, overdose and early deaths after release from prison in Washington state. Drug Alcohol Depend 117(1):1–6Google Scholar
  5. Binswanger IA, Nowels C, Corsi KF, Long J, Booth RE, Kutner J et al (2011b) “From the prison door right to the sidewalk, everything went downhill,” A qualitative study of the health experiences of recently released inmates. Int J Law Psychiatry 34(4):249–255Google Scholar
  6. Boyle CA, Decoufle P (1990) National sources of vital status information: extent of coverage and possible selectivity in reporting. Am J Epidemiol 131(1):160–168Google Scholar
  7. Chen CY, Wu PN, Su LW, Chou YJ, Lin KM (2010) Three year mortality and predictors after release: a longitudinal study of the first-time drug offenders in Taiwan. Soc Stud Addict 105:920–927Google Scholar
  8. Curnow J, Larsen JJ (2009) Deaths in custody in Australia: national deaths in custody program 2007. AIC Monitoring Reports No. 03. Australian Institute of Criminology, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  9. Fazel S, Danesh J (2002) Serious mental disorder in 23 000 prisoners: a systematic review of 62 surveys. Lancet 359:545–550Google Scholar
  10. Harding-Pink D, Frye O (1988) Risk of death after release from prison: a duty to warn. British Medical Journal 297:596Google Scholar
  11. Karaminia A, Law MG, Butler TG, Levy MH, Corber SP, Kaldor JM et al (2007) Suicide risk among recently released prisoners in New South Wales, Australia. Med J Aust 187(7):387–390Google Scholar
  12. Kariminia A, Butler TG, Corben SP, Levy MH, Grant L, Kaldor JM et al (2007) Extreme cause specific mortality in a cohort of adult prisoners – 1998 to 2002: a data-linkage study. Int J Epidemiol 36(2):310–318Google Scholar
  13. Kinner SA (2010) Understanding mortality and health outcomes for ex-prisoners: first steps on a long road [Commentary]. Addiction 105(9):1555–1556Google Scholar
  14. Kinner SA, Preen D, Kariminia A, Butler T, Andrews J, Stoové M et al (2011) Counting the cost: estimating of the number of deaths among recently released prisoners in Australia. Med J Aust 195(2):64–68Google Scholar
  15. Kinner SA, Forsyth S, Williams GM (2013). Systematic review of record linkage studies of mortality in ex-prisoners: why (good) methods matter. Addiction 108(1):38–49Google Scholar
  16. Larney S (2010) Opioid substitution treatment in prison and post-release: effects on criminal recidivism and mortality. University of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  17. Lenton SR, Dietze PM, Degenhardt L, Darke S, Butler TG (2009) Naloxone for administration by peers in cases of heroin overdose. Med J Aust 191(8):469Google Scholar
  18. Levy M (2005) Prisoner health care provision: reflections from Australia. Int J Prison Health 1(1):65–73Google Scholar
  19. Lidberg L, Wiklund N, Jakobsson SW (1989) Mortality among criminals with suspected mental disturbance. Scand J Soc Med 17:59–65Google Scholar
  20. Merrall ELC, Kariminia A, Binswanger IA, Hobbs MS, Farrell M, Marsden J et al (2010) Meta-analysis of drug-related deaths soon after release from prison. Addiction 105(9):1545–1554Google Scholar
  21. Noonan M (2010) Mortality in local jails 2000–07. US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  22. Palepu A, Tyndall MW, Chan K, Wood E, Montaner JSG, Hogg RS (2004) Initiating highly active antiretroviral therapy and continuity of HIV care: the impact of incarceration and prison release on adherence and HIV treatment outcomes. Antivir Ther 9:713–719Google Scholar
  23. Pettit B, Western B (2004) Mass imprisonment and the life course: race and class inequality in U.S. incarceration. Am Sociol Rev 69:151–169Google Scholar
  24. Pratt D, Piper M, Appleby L, Webb R, Shaw J (2006) Suicide in recently released prisoners: a population-based cohort study. Lancet 368(9530):119–123Google Scholar
  25. Rosen DL, Schoenbach VJ, Wohl DA (2008) All-cause and cause-specific mortality among men released from state prison, 1980–2005. Am J Public Health 98(12):2278–2284Google Scholar
  26. Seal KH, Kral AH, Gee L, Moore LD, Bluthenthal RN, Lorvick J et al (2001) Predictors and prevention of nonfatal overdose among street-recruited injection heroin users in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1998–1999. Am J Public Health 91(11):1842–1846Google Scholar
  27. Seaman SR, Brettle RP, Gore SM (1998) Mortality from overdose among injecting drug users recently released from prison: database linkage study. Br Med J 316:426–428Google Scholar
  28. Siegel S (2001) Pavlovian conditioning and drug overdose: when tolerance fails. Addict Res Theory 9(5):503–513Google Scholar
  29. Singleton N, Pendry E, Taylor C, Farrell M, Marsden J (2003) Drug-related mortality among newly released offenders. UK Home Office, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Stewart L, Henderson C, Hobbs MST, Ridout SC, Knuiman MW (2004) Risk of death in prisoners after release from jail. Aust N Z J Public Health 28(1):32–36Google Scholar
  31. van Dooren K, Forsyth S, Kinner SA (in press). Young people have heightened risk of death in the year following release from adult prison. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public HealthGoogle Scholar
  32. Warner-Smith M, Darke S, Lynskey M, Hall W (2001) Heroin overdose: causes and consequences. Addiction 96(8):1113–1125Google Scholar
  33. WHO (2007) Health in prisons: a WHO guide to the essentials in prison health. World Health Organisation, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  34. WHO (2010) Prevention of acute drug-related mortality in prison populations during the immediate post-release period. World Health Organisation, GenevaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthThe University of Melbourne and School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.School of MedicineThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Division of General Internal Medicine and Division of Substance DependenceUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA
  4. 4.Denver Health Medical CenterDenverUSA