Open doorsCreative Commons Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives license 2.0 by Shelby Root

Prisoner rehabilitation

Why do former prisoners not access health and social services after release from prison?

In Dunedin the Prisoner Aid and Rehabilitation Service (PARS) is contracted by the Department of Corrections to support formers prisoners in the community following their release. A group of our Nursing students recently worked with PARS to investigate the health needs of released prisoners. 

According to previous research, ex-prisoners have higher rates of mental health problems, drug and substance abuse and overall have poorer health outcomes compared with the rest of the population. Ex-prisoners will often have had poor experiences with health services and this contributes to their hesitation in engaging with health services upon release. Other contributing factors are poor health literacy due to a generally lower education attainment. 

Better pre-release planning and enabling immediate connection with services on release of prison should help provide this vulnerable population with the best chance at reintegrating into the community successfully. The students therefore prepared a health promotion pamphlet providing information about available services, to help released prisoners' re-entry into the community. The pamphlet covered financial and support services as well as health care.

They also learned that trauma is found in high levels amongst prisoners in New Zealand. Benefits from trauma-informed care may include improving long-term health outcomes, the opportunity to become more engaged in their own health care and the development of a trusting relationship with the service provider, who is delivering this care. The students prepared a poster which promoted trauma-informed care, providing access via a QR code to an online training resource. Both the poster and the pamphlet were delivered to PARS for distribution and use.