After jail, former inmates face higher death risk
By Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People released from New York City jails face an increased risk of death from drug overdose, homicide or suicide -- especially in the first couple weeks of freedom, city health officials say.
In a study of more than 155,000 people released from city jails over five years, researchers found that former inmates were twice as likely as other city residents to die of a drug overdose or homicide.
Those risks were especially high in the first two weeks after release -- when they were five- to eight-times greater compared with other New Yorkers' risks during the same two-week period.
Some former inmates also had elevated risks of suicide, including whites and people who had been homeless before going to jail.
The findings, which appear in the American Journal of Epidemiology, are not exactly surprising. They are in line with studies from other parts of the U.S., and in the UK and Australia, write the researchers, led by Sungwoo Lim of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
But the findings, they say, underscore a need for more programs -- including mental health counseling and drug abuse treatment -- to be offered in jail, and then continued in the community, after inmates are released.
MANY PRISONERS WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
It's been estimated that more than half of Americans behind bars have symptoms of some type of psychiatric disorder, ranging from schizophrenia to major depression. And most of them also meet the definition of drug or alcohol dependence. Continued...