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CMAJ Open. 2017 Sep 13;5(3):E717-E723. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20160165.

Factors that support successful transition to the community among women leaving prison in British Columbia: a prospective cohort study using participatory action research.

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Affiliations: Child & Family Research Institute (Janssen); School of Population and Public Health (Janssen, Buxton, Elwood Martin); Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education (Korchinski, Condello, Elwood Martin), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC; Department of Psychology (Desmarais), North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; Women's Health Research Institute (Albert), BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver, BC; Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (Condello), Burnaby, BC; Counselling Psychology Program (Buchanan), Faculty of Education, and Centre for Group Counselling and Trauma, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC; Fielding Graduate University (Granger-Brown), Santa Barbara, Calif.; Academic Family Medicine (Ramsden), University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Sask.; Arts Education (Fels) and International Centre of Arts for Social Change (Fels), Simon Fraser University; BC Centre for Disease Control (Buxton); Department of Language & Literacy Education (Leggo), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.



In Canada, the number of women sentenced to prison has almost doubled since 1995. In British Columbia, the rate of reincarceration is 70% within 2 years. Our aim was to identify factors associated with recidivism among women in British Columbia.


We prospectively followed women after discharge from provincial corrections centres in British Columbia. We defined recidivism as participation in criminal activity disclosed by participants during the year following release. To identify predictive factors, we carried out a repeated-measures analysis using a logistic mixed-effect model.


Four hundred women completed a baseline interview, of whom 207 completed additional interviews during the subsequent year, contributing 395 interviews in total. Factors significantly associated in univariate analysis with recidivism included not having a family doctor or dentist, depression, not having children, less than high school education, index charge of drug offense or theft under $5000, poor general health, hepatitis C treatment, poor nutritional or spiritual health, and use of cannabis or cocaine. In multivariate analysis, good nutritional health (odds ratio [OR] 0.52 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.35-0.76]), good spiritual health (OR 0.61 [95% CI 0.44-0.83]), high school education (OR 0.44 [95% CI 0.22-0.87]) and incarceration for a drug offence versus other crimes (OR 0.30 [95% CI 0.12-0.79]) were protective against recidivism.


Our findings emphasize the relevance of health-related strategies as drivers of recidivism among women released from prison. Health assessment on admission followed by treatment for trauma and associated psychiatric disorders and for chronic medical and dental problems deserve consideration as priority approaches to reduce rates of reincarceration.

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