The transition from prison to community can be incredibly challenging, which is one reason why almost half of all female prisoners are back behind bars within one year of their release and most have multiple prison terms, mainly for drug-related offenses. A new research study at St. Michael’s Hospital Centre for Research on Inner City Health suggests that involving female offenders in release planning can increase the success of their reintegration success.
The research study spoke to 31 women recently released from women’s prisons in Canada, and who had experience of moderate to severe substance use problems. The study asked the women about their experiences upon release and together, found that there are several factors with the potential to improve the transition from prison to the community including:
- Immediate access to programs and services upon release
- Release planning and coordination, including concrete information about what to expect; orientation in the community; and, help establishing links to social networks and services
- Respectful, trusting and transparent relationships with professionals. Some women felt scrutinized and judged by parole officers, and did not feel comfortable enough to ask basic questions, including those related to conditions of parole
- Friends and family members as important sources of support. At the same time, some women attributed renewed substance use to their return to social networks in which substance use was the norm