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Waiting to be Caught: The Devolution of Health for Women Newly Released From Jail

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: Autumn 2001 Pages: 143-169
M. Katherine Maeve
Date Published
27 pages
This article discusses factors related to successful community re-entry for women newly released from jail.
Nationally and locally, the number of women arrested, jailed, and imprisoned continues to escalate. Women entering jails and prisons have higher incidences of chronic physical and mental illnesses compared to their free-world counterparts. They frequently have significant histories of early childhood sexual abuse, substance abuse, and addictions. About 20 percent of women enter jails and prisons for committing crimes involving violence that often begins within dysfunctional family relationships or substance abuse problems. The first few hours and weeks after release from prisons are critical periods in which women either relapse or reconnect with their communities in ways that support themselves and ultimately the communities in which they are members. Data for this study were generated through interviews with approximately 75 women in a county jail in the southeastern United States. Data were analyzed from a critical hermeneutic perspective, which aims at emancipation and understanding. Results show that the participants exemplified the many difficulties that both recreate and sustain women’s criminal behaviors and poor health status. Services were few, and the conditions that were imposed on the women guaranteed failure. The failure of the community was to not connect them with the kind of resources that they needed in order to stabilize their lives. The already vulnerable women were released without money, without a way to contact friends or family, and back into neighborhoods that were disorganized. The women experienced a downward momentum of health status or “devolution” of economic status, physical and mental health status, intimate and family relationships, and general social functioning. 71 references


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