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Book cover: Research in Community and Mental Health

Research in Community and Mental Health

ISSN: 0192-0812
Series editor(s): William H. Fischer

Subject Area: Health Care Management/Healthcare

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Prison, hospital or community: community re-entry and mentally ill offenders

Document Information:
Title:Prison, hospital or community: community re-entry and mentally ill offenders
Author(s):Stephanie Hartwell
Volume:12 Editor(s): William H. Fisher ISBN: 978-0-76230-972-6 eISBN: 978-1-84950-183-5
Citation:Stephanie Hartwell (2002), Prison, hospital or community: community re-entry and mentally ill offenders, in William H. Fisher (ed.) Community-Based Interventions for Criminal Offenders with Severe Mental Illness (Research in Community and Mental Health, Volume 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.199-220
DOI:10.1016/S0192-0812(03)80022-3 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Full length article

There remains a gap in the research on the characteristics, service needs, and experiences of persons with mental illness post incarceration. This analysis uses data collected by the Massachusetts Forensic Transition Team program to describe the characteristics of the offenders with mental illness and to examine the relationship of particular characteristics towards community reintegration and adaptation post release from correctional custody. Length of incarceration (misdemeanor or felony sentence structure) and service needs at release are expected to be associated with the ability to adapt, stigma, and, in turn, short-term dispositions in the community or more structured settings.

I first met Andrew in a medium security prison in the fall of 2001. He had spent the majority of his adult life in prison. During the first of three incarcerations, he served five years and was released to live in the community, which he did for almost a year, until he was re-arrested and sentenced for 2 more years. This time, when he was released, he was in the community for only 2 weeks before being arrested and re-incarcerated. Andrew grew up in South Boston. His family has a history of mental illness and alcoholism. Andrew is bipolar, suffering bouts of manic depression, and has a substance abuse problem. His drug of choice is cocaine, which he uses intravenously. He is HIV positive. He is in his early 30s. Andrew's current sentence is 5 years for 26 counts of malicious destruction of property and motor vehicle theft. While he is attempting to get his sentence revised based on his health status, he acknowledges he has difficulty living in the community. Of prison life he says, “I excel in here!” He works a half an hour a day sweeping his unit, “and then I have the rest of the day to myself”. Andrew is presentable and articulate. He participates in release planning. When he is in the community he seeks out appropriate services. Nonetheless, he has difficulty staying out of prison.

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