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Health and Reentry

Health and Reentry: Preliminary Findings of a Qualitative Study on the Health of Post-Incarcerated Women in Southern California

by Stephen Inrig, PhD, and Carolyn Conti, PhD

The United States maintains the highest percentage of female prisoners in the industrialized world. Consequently, thousands of formerly incarcerated women reenter American society daily. Health conditions complicate this transition: 90% of female releasees report chronic health conditions, and health problems are strongly associated with re-arrest and reincarceration. Upon reentry to civilian life, two-thirds of women report chronic physical conditions (versus one-half of men), and one-third report mental health problems (versus 15% of men). About two-thirds of both women and men report substance abuse problems. Mount Saint Mary’s University’s Healthy Reentry Working Group is studying the long-term health needs of releasees in Southern California. Preliminary research finds that health needs among female releasees are substantive and unaddressed. Releasees face logistical barriers to stability and care; report considerable rates of stress, depression and mental illness; experience sustained addiction and substance use problems; and report long histories of trauma. This study suggests health is intimately related to successful reentry, unmet health needs create reincarceration risks and health interventions may improve quality of life for returning women and their families.

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About the Authors

Stephen Inrig PortraitSTEPHEN INRIG, PhD, is an associate professor at Mount Saint Mary’s, where he serves as director of the graduate program in health policy and management, and director of interdisciplinary healthcare research. Inrig is the co-author of “The AIDS Pandemic: Searching for a Global Response” (Springer) and author of “North Carolina and the Problem of AIDS: Advocacy, Politics & Race in the South” (UNC Press). Inrig received his PhD from Duke University in the history of medicine (health policy), his MS in clinical sciences (health systems research) from the University of Texas-Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and his BA in history from the University of North Texas.

Carolyn Conti PortraitCAROLYN CONTI ‘19, PhD, is a retired computer systems engineer who earned her PhD in bioethics from Duquesne University in 2010. She is currently completing a graduate program in health policy and management at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Conti is interested in pursuing a career as an advocate for healthcare reform. Her particular focus is to bring healthcare and other social necessities to underserved populations, especially women who have recently been released from incarceration in jail or prison.


To learn more about the research and resources from the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University, visit Or contact the director, Emerald Archer, PhD, at or 213.477.2544.