Background — People who experience incarceration have poor health across a variety of indicators, but we lack population-level data on the health of females in particular. We examined the health status of females released from provincial prison, and compared their data with data for males released from provincial prison and females in the general population in Ontario, Canada in 2010.
Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study using linked correctional and health administrative data. We compared sociodemographic data, morbidity, mortality, and use of health care for (1) females released from provincial prison in 2010, (2) males released from provincial prison in 2010, and (3) age-matched females in the general population.
Results — Females in the incarceration group (N = 6,107) were more likely to have higher morbidity and specific psychiatric conditions compared with the male incarceration group (N = 42,754) and the female general population group (N = 24,428). Their mortality rate postrelease was several times higher than that for the female general population group. They used primary care more often than both comparator groups across all time periods, and they used emergency departments more often compared with the female general population group and in most periods postrelease compared with the male incarceration group. They also tended to have higher rates of medical-surgical and psychiatric hospitalization.
Conclusion — Females who experience incarceration have worse health overall than males who experience incarceration and females in the general population. Efforts should be made to reform programs and policies in the criminal justice and health care systems to support and promote health for females who experience incarceration.