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Study Finds Young Released Prisoners Have a High Risk of Death

Update Date: Jul 31, 2013 02:48 PM EDT

Prisoners often say that going to prison changes one's life drastically. Regardless of what kinds of prison criminals end up in, the fact that they are all forced to live in closed quarters with one another sounds highly dangerous. Despite the fact that it is dangerous behind closed doors, a new study found that for young prisoners who finished serving time, the dangers are lurking outside the gates. Researchers found that young prisoners are up to 20 times more likely to end up dead after being released from prison in comparison to other people around the same age that have never gone to prison.

In this study, the researchers, associate professor Stuart Kinner from the University of Melbourne and Dr. Kate van Dooren from the University of Queensland both in Australia, reviewed around 42,000 cases of people who were released from prison from 1994 to 2007. The data came from a prison in Queensland. The researchers followed up on the ex-prisoners for 14 years. The deaths were recorded in the National Death Index.

"On any one day there are almost 30,000 adults in prisons in Australia, and up to 60,000 cycle through prisons each year. Release from prison is associated with a large increase in risk of death, and this increase is greatest for young people," the researchers wrote.

The researchers found that the risk of death increased by four times for young people who have just got out of prison in comparison to people who were never imprisoned. The researchers also found that young ex-prisoners between the ages of 18 and 25 were less likely to die than older prisoners. The researchers discovered that the group with the greatest risk of death was young women. Young women were 20 times more likely to die after being released and young men were six times more likely to die. The researchers identified that the majority of the deaths were preventable ones caused by drugs and/or suicide.

"Between 1994 and 2008, we identified 363 people died within a year of release from prison. We found that the risk of death for people leaving prison is four times that of people in the wider community," Kinner said reported by Medical Xpress.

The researchers suggest that more needs to be done in order to help these young adults integrate back into communities. The authors noted that many of the young prisoners were not classified as serious offenders and might need a little bit more guidance.

"People are sent to prison as punishment not for punishment, and after release it's in everybody's interests to support individuals to successfully integrate into their communities. These are not just 'offenders,' they are young people, someone's children, partners and in some cases, parents. For these vulnerable young people, a prison sentence shouldn't be a death sentence," the authors wrote. "These tragic and preventable deaths clearly show that we can do a lot more to support this transitional process."

The study was provided by the University of Melbourne

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