FAQ on the Behavioral Health Needs of People Returning from Prison and Jail

The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC), also coordinated by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, recently published a set of frequently asked questions on the substance use and mental and physical health of people involved with the criminal justice system. The FAQ was prepared by the NRRC’s Committee on Health, Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.

Research shows that many people involved in the criminal justice system often have complex and co-occurring health and behavioral health issues. In a study of 800 individuals returning from prison, roughly four in 10 men and six in 10 women reported a combination of substance abuse, mental health and physical health conditions. In addition, the rates of infectious diseases are higher among people in correctional facilities and under community supervision than among the general population. These behavioral and physical health conditions—and the increased risk of illness and relapse that they present—often make it more difficult for people to successfully return to their communities after release. Addressing physical and behavioral health needs of people reentering communities through comprehensive reentry planning and coordinating transitional services has the potential to improve post-release outcomes.

This FAQ, written for reentry practitioners and people who are currently and formerly incarcerated, as well as their families and friends, covers a range of issues related to the health and behavioral health status of people returning from prison and jail. It describes current research, challenges to reentry presented by health and behavioral health needs, the importance of continuity of care and linkages to federal benefits, and best practices for improving reentry outcomes. As such, it helps “make the case” for funding and supporting comprehensive behavioral and physical health programs both inside and outside correctional facilities. The FAQ is meant to be a “living” document that will be updated as new information becomes available.

To view the FAQ, click here.