, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 290-303

Reintegrating women leaving jail into urban communities: A description of a model program

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Abstract

Women are the fastest-growing population in the criminal justice system, and jails reach more people than any other component of the correctional system. About 1 million women pass through US jails each year. Most return to their communities within a few weeks of arrest, and few receive help for the substance abuse, health, psychological or social problems that contribute to incarceration. We describe a model program, Health Link, designed to assist drug-using jailed women in New York City to return to their communities, reduce drug use and HIV risk behavior, and avoid rearrest. The program operates on four levels: direct services, including case management for individual women in the jail and for 1 year after release; technical assistance, training, and financial support for community service providers that serve ex-offenders; staff support for a network of local service providers that coordinate services and advocate for resources: and policy analysis and advocacy to identify and reduce barriers to successful community reintegration of women released from jail. We describe the characteristics of 386 women enrolled in Health Link in 1997 and 1998; define the elements of this intervention; and assess the lessons we have learned from 10 years of experience working with jailed women.