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J Forensic Nurs. 2010 Spring;6(1):3-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2009.01060.x.

Women, serious mental illness and recidivism: A gender-based analysis of recidivism risk for women with SMI released from prison.

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University of Utah College of Nursing, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA.


Two groups now constitute the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population: women and persons with mental illness. Few large-scale studies have explored associations among serious mental illness (SMI), gender, and recidivism, or compared factors such as illness severity and clinical history as these construct notably different situations for incarcerated women and men. We report on our recent study comparing prison recidivism rates, severity of mental illness, and clinical history for women and men released from Utah State Prison 1998-2002.


While women generally have better recidivism outcomes than men, we find that SMI related factors have a greater negative effect on the trajectories of women in this sample as compared with the men. This suggests that programs and policies focused on the SMI-specific risks and needs of women could significantly reduce prison recidivism and increase community tenure for this group, with far-reaching effects for families and communities.

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