Coming home: Health status and homelessness risk of older pre-release prisoners

Brie A. Williams, James McGuire, Rebecca G. Lindsay, Jacques Baillargeon, Irena Stijacic Cenzer, Sei J. Lee, Margot Kushel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Older adults comprise an increasing proportion of the prison and homeless populations. While older age is associated with adverse post-release health events and incarceration is a risk factor for homelessness, the health status and homelessness risk of older pre-release prisoners are unknown. Moreover, most post-release services are geared towards veterans; it is unknown whether the needs of non-veterans differ from those of veterans. OBJECTIVE: To assess health status and risk of homelessness of older pre-release prisoners, and to compare veterans with non-veterans. DESIGN/PARTICIPANTS: Cross-sectional study of 360 prisoners (≥ 55 years of age) within 2 years of release from prison using data from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. MAIN MEASURES: Veteran status, health status (based on self-report), and risk of homelessness (homelessness before arrest). KEY RESULTS: Mean age was 61 years; 93.8% were men and 56.5% were white. Nearly 40% were veterans, of whom 77.2% reported likely VA service eligibility. Veterans were more likely to be white and to have obtained a high school diploma or GED. Overall, 79.1% reported a medical condition and 13.6% reported a serious mental illness. There was little difference in health status between veterans and non-veterans. Although 1 in 12 prisoners reported a risk factor for homelessness, the risk factors did not differ according to veteran status. CONCLUSIONS: Older pre-release prisoners had a high burden of medical and mental illness and were at risk for post-release homelessness regardless of veteran status. Reentry programs linking pre-release older prisoners to medical and psychiatric services and to homelessness prevention programs are needed for both veterans and non-veterans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1038-1044
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • health status
  • homelessness risk
  • older prisoners
  • pre-release prisoners

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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