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Drug-Related Mortality Among Newly Released Offenders

NCJ Number
Nicola Singleton; Elizabeth Pendry; Colin Taylor; Michael Farrell; John Marsden
Date Published
4 pages
This document discusses the rates of mortality among recently released inmates in England and Wales.
Evidence has suggested that recently released offenders are at a high risk of dying from drug-related causes. This study was undertaken before the implementation of the revised prison service drug strategy that brought in a considerable expansion in the provision of treatment and support for drug abusers. The sample included 12,438 inmates discharged in June or December 1999. It was found that 79 drug-related deaths and 58 deaths from other causes were recorded in the study period up to January 31, 2001. There was a high rate of death from all causes in the immediate post-release period. There were 13 deaths in the first week after release, 6 in the second week, and 3-4 per week in the third and fourth weeks. After this, the rate of death declined to a steady rate of about two deaths per week. In the week following release, inmates were about 40 times more likely to die than the general population. In this period, immediately post-release, most of these deaths (over 90 percent) were associated with drug-related causes. The age of the inmate at the time of release was associated with the risk of death from both drug-related and other causes. Inmates aged 25 to 39 at the time of release were most at risk. Of the 79 drug-related deaths, just over half were recorded as involving only 1 drug. A single drug with alcohol was recorded in 13 percent of cases, mixed drugs without alcohol in 19 percent, and mixed drugs with alcohol in 14 percent of cases. In 71 percent of all cases, heroin/morphine were specifically mentioned either by the coroner or in the toxicology report. The risk factors for drug-related death were living off crime before coming to prison, having a small primary support group (3 people or fewer), being in prison for a sex offense, a history of illicit use of tranquilizers, and use of drugs in the months before coming to prison. 1 figure, 1 table, 2 references