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Health status and healthcare utilization among men recently released from a superjail: a matched prospective cohort study


Purpose — Continuity of care and access to primary care have been identified as important contributors to improved health outcomes and reduced reincarceration among people who are justice-involved. While the disproportionate burden of health concerns among incarcerated populations is well documented, less is known about their health service utilization, limiting the potential for effective improvements to current policy and practice. This study aims to examine health status and healthcare utilization among men recently released from a superjail in a large metropolitan area to better understand patterns of use, risk factors and facilitators.

Design/Methodology/Approach — Participants included adult men (n = 106) matched to a general population group (n = 530) in Ontario, Canada, linked to medical records (88.5% linkage) to examine baseline health status and health utilization three-months post-release. The authors compared differences between the groups in baseline health conditions and estimated the risk of emergency department, primary care, inpatient hospitalization and specialist ambulatory care visits.

Findings — Superjail participants had a significantly higher prevalence of respiratory conditions, mental illness, substance use and injuries. Substance use was a significant risk factor for all types of visits and emergency department visits were over three times higher among superjail participants.

Originality/Value — This empirical case is illustrative of an emerging phenomenon in some regions of the world where emergency departments serve as de facto “walk-in clinics” for those with criminal justice involvement. Strategic approaches to health services are required to meet the complex social and health needs and disparities in access to care experienced by men released from custody.



Matheson FI, McLuhan A, Croxford R, Hahmann T, Ferguson M, Mejia-Lancheros C. Int J Prison Health. 2023; Sep 5 [Epub ahead of print]

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