Background — We aimed to define rates and causes of death in custody and after release in people admitted to provincial custody in Ontario, and to compare these data with data for the general population.
Methods — We linked data on adults admitted to provincial custody in Ontario in 2000 with data on deaths between 2000 and 2012. We examined rates and causes of death by age, sex, custodial status and period after release, and compared them with data for the general population, using indirect adjustment for age.
Results — Between 2000 and 2012, 8.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 8.3%–8.8%) of those incarcerated died in provincial custody or after release. The crude death rate was 7.1 (95% CI 6.9–7.3) per 1000 person-years. The standardized mortality ratio for those incarcerated in 2000 was 4.0 (95% CI 3.9–4.1) overall and 1.9 (95% CI 1.5–2.4) while in provincial custody. The most common causes of death were injury and poisoning (38.2% of all deaths), including overdose (13.6%) and suicide (8.2%), diseases of the circulatory system (15.8%) and neoplasms (14.5%). In the 2 weeks after release, the standardized mortality ratio was 5.7 overall and 56.0 for overdose. Life expectancy was 72.3 years for women and 73.4 for men who experienced incarceration in 2000.
Interpretation — Mortality was high for people who experienced incarceration, and life expectancy was 4.2 years less for men and 10.6 years less for women compared with the general population. Efforts should be made to reduce the gap in mortality between people who experience incarceration and those who do not. Time in custody could serve as an opportunity to intervene to decrease risk.
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Access to health care
Equity in health care
Social determinants of health