Prison-based and community interventions

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 You will write a 4-page research-based paper in current APA format that focuses on your personal analysis of prison-based and community interventions. You must include a reference page and cite at least 2 of the module/week readings in addition to 1 peer-reviewed journal not covered in the module/week readings. 

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9
DOI 10.1186/s40352-015-0021-7

RESEARCH ARTICLE Open Access

The impact of prison deinstitutionalization on
community treatment services
Beverly D Frazier1*, Hung-En Sung2, Lior Gideon1 and Karla S Alfaro1

Abstract

Background: With one in every 108 Americans behind bars, the deinstitutionalization of prisons is a pressing issue
for all those facing the daunting challenges of successfully reintegrating ex-offenders into both their communities
and the larger society. Given the strong evidence that treatment services, such as mental/behavioral health,
alcohol/substance abuse, and primary healthcare may reduce recidivism, the large number of prisoner releases
highlights the need for adequate treatment services in the community. It is within this context that the current
study aims to examine the effects of prison deinstitutionalization on community based intervention modalities.

Methods: This study set out to address a set of fundamental research questions in the current climate of reversing the
40-year upward trend in prison population. This thread of inquiry is based on a hydraulic model of institutionalization
of transinstitutionalization. This hydraulic framework posits that there are many overlaps between public safety and
mental health needs, and that psychiatric institutionalization and penal institutionalization are functionally dependent.
Longitudinal data with annual standardized measures such as rates and percentages for this change modeling were
obtained from a number of national data programs for all 50 states. Our analytical focus concentrated on the second
half of the decade of the 2000s.

Results: Change in the state imprisonment rate was negatively correlated with change in the rate of substance abuse
treatment admissions (r = -0.24; p < .05) and the change in the rate of inpatient admissions in state psychiatric
hospitals (r = 0.10; p > .05) as predicted. However, only the bivariate association between imprisonment and substance
abuse treatment admissions attained the conventional threshold of statistical significance. Holding constant the direct
and indirect effects of changes in the rates of violent crime and illicit drug use, change in prison population was
negatively associated with changes in the rate of substance abuse (unstandardized coefficient = -0.891; p < 0.05) and
mental health admissions (unstandardized coefficient = -0.509; p > 0.05) in the community.

Conclusion: By using a path analysis of the hydraulic model, we argue that social systems, similar to water moving in
closed tubes, aspire to equilibrate. In other words, a decrease in prison population will not go without a corresponding
increase in community mental health and substance abuse services. Social voids like those created by deinstitutionalization
must be filled; and with states deinstitutionalizing offenders the toll is on their corresponding communities to address
the needs of those offenders who are reentering after being incarcerated. In devising a policy and practice strategy to
address the projected increase in the reentry population, leadership within communities for social and supportive
services to ex-prisoners, specifically treatment services should be of primary concern.

Keywords: Reentry; Treatment services; Deinstitutionalization; Recidivism

* Correspondence: [email protected]
1Department of Law, Police Science & Criminal Justice Administration, John
Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019,
USA

© 2015 Frazier et al.; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction
in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 2 of 12

Background
With one in every 108 Americans behind bars (Glaze and
Herberman 2013), the deinstitutionalization of prisons is a
pressing issue for all those facing the daunting challenges of
successfully reintegrating ex-offenders into both their com-
munities and the larger society. Of the 2.2 million persons
incarcerated, when considering race, age and gender, the
disparity is staggering for young minority males (Glaze and
Herberman 2013). In 2012, Black men were six times more
likely and Hispanic men were 2.5 times more likely to be
imprisoned than white males (Carson and Golinelli 2013).
For the more than 700,000 individuals released annually,
who are returning to communities in metropolitan areas
with high concentrations of ex-offenders, the challenges
may be overwhelmingly greater than for the larger reentry
population. Many of these communities are facing high
levels of socioeconomic distress and are dealing with
already strained resources (Clear 2007). Complicating the
reentry process and increasing the threat of unsuccessful
reentry even more, present deinstitutionalization trends in-
dicate an increase in the reentry population, in the not so
distant future.
Given the increase in state and municipal budget

constraints (Archibold 2010; Riccardi 2009; Warren 2008)
and the repeal of certain draconian drug laws, such as the
Rockefeller Drug Laws, it is likely that offenders’ sentences
may be shorter than in previous years (Fields 2009;
Kendrick 2011; Peters 2009) (see Fair Sentencing Act of
2010, National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011).
The result could well be an increase in the number of ex-
offenders released over the next few years, thus increasing
the count and density of ex-offenders in many communities
across the nation, making successful reintegration an even
greater strain on community resources.
The United States is already experiencing an increase

in ex-offenders returning to communities nationwide, as
documented in recent Bureau of Justice Statistics reports
on the prison population (Glaze 2011). The combined
U.S. state and federal prison population, numbered
1,612,395, decreased 0.3 percent in 2010, which was the
first decline of prison population experienced since 1972
(Guerino et al. 2011). After sharp unprecedented in-
creases in the 1980s and 1990s, the incarceration rate
has since grown at a slower pace, and is in its fourth
year of decline from 2009–2012 (Glaze and Herberman
2013). Over the same period, prison release increased by
about the same percentage (2.2%); thereby, slightly in-
creasing the rate of those returning from prisons and
jails back to their communities. Previously, in 2008, the
number of ex-prisoners returning to the community
reached an all-time high (Lattimore et al. 2010).
Reports indicate that out of the individuals who serve

a prison term, 90–95 percent will return to the commu-
nity at least one time – most of whom will be rearrested

within three years and returned to prison for new crimes
or parole violations (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2007).
As prisoners are released from incarceration, the com-
munity is often called upon to provide treatment and
other services in order to reduce recidivism. These tasks
have become increasingly overwhelming because there
are more than seven million adults in the United States
under some form of criminal justice supervision
(Maruschak 2012).
Data shows that many offenders currently under criminal

justice supervision, either incarcerated or supervised in the
community, are diagnosed with multiple health issues, in-
cluding mental health (Fazel and Danesh 2002), substance/
alcohol abuse (Welsh 2011; Sung et al. 2013), and deterior-
ating physical health (Dretsch 2013; Freudenberg 2001;
Watson et al. 2004). Given the strong evidence that treat-
ment services, such as mental/behavioral health, alcohol/
substance abuse, and primary healthcare may reduce recid-
ivism, the large number of prisoner releases highlights the
need for adequate treatment services in the community.
The importance of these treatment services lies in their
relationship to recidivism. Recidivism is a vital measure
because it represents a significant societal cost, and it is a
known empirical observation that, while it might not be
true in some communities, nationally, most released pris-
oners will re-offend. In addition, the time it takes for some-
one to recidivate for a drug-involved offense is much
shorter than other types of offenses (Holleran 2002). This
observation suggests that addiction counseling may be
exceptionally critical to reducing recidivism rates. However,
many states are not able to meet the multiple needs of
those returning from prison and jail due mainly to the lack
of proper resources, specifically for treatment services
(Frazier 2008). This is particularly true for those communi-
ties disproportionately impacted by high counts and
densities of returning ex-offenders (Gideon 2010).

Literature Review
Overwhelming need for treatment services
While released prisoners have many types of needs (e.g.
education, employment, housing, treatment services,
etc.), addiction counseling for alcohol and substance
abuse is considered one of the most prominent. In fact,
sixty to eighty percent of incarcerated offenders have
been involved with drug use and, of this, approximately
only 11 percent have received any type of professional
treatment since admission (Center on Addiction and
Substance Abuse 2010). Studies have shown that ap-
proximately half of all prisoners are diagnosed with
some form of substance abuse (Chandler et al. 2009).
Based on two observations made by Spjeldnes et al.
(2012), it is reasonable to assume that at least some of
these individuals will still need treatment once they are
released from prison. Firstly, nearly three-quarters of

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 3 of 12

state prisoners, who are expected to be released within
the next year, reported a history of drug and/or alcohol
abuse. Secondly, only one in six inmates received treat-
ment for alcohol/substance abuse or mental/behavioral
problems and even fewer received treatment after release
(Spjeldnes, et al. 2012). In prison, the mental and phys-
ical problems of inmates go undiagnosed unless the in-
mate complains, and even then, they may not receive
treatment for reasons such as the lack of adequate ser-
vices (Ross et al. 2011). Since ex-offenders report sub-
stance problems in prison but do not receive treatment,
the conclusion that they may need treatment in the
community upon release is supported.
Unfortunately, many released prisoners do not receive

treatment upon release. In a Maryland study, Visher
et al. (2004) demonstrated gradually decreasing enroll-
ment of prisoners in drug or alcohol treatment pro-
grams. Twenty-seven percent of the approximately 300
surveyed respondents participated in such programs be-
fore release. After 30–45 days post-release, the percent
dropped to 18 percent, with a further drop to eight per-
cent after four to six months following release (Visher,
et al. 2004). Similarly, 12.1 percent of the surveyed re-
spondents indicated having had some type of outpatient
substance abuse treatment in the past 30 days, and only
three percent had such treatment four to six months
after release. It is clear that treatment services may be
useful for released prisoners because 63 percent of sub-
jects in the study reported using alcohol and drugs more
often or in larger amounts than they intended after be-
ing released (Visher, et al. 2004).
In addition to addiction treatment, released prisoners

may require mental health treatment. Research based on
data from personal interviews estimates that more than
half of all inmates (including 56 percent of state pris-
oners, 45 percent of federal prisoners and 64 percent of
jail inmates) have a mental health problem (Hawkins
et al. 2010). Furthermore, statistics show that 14 percent
to 31 percent of the nine million inmates released from
jail every year have a diagnosis of mental illness (Draine
et al. 2010). These individuals with mental illnesses may
strain the capacity of community mental health systems
upon release because of their sheer numbers. This strain is
complicated by the observation that offenders with mental
health issues often have trouble complying with advice
from mental health professionals. Using a sample consisting
of 301 offenders from Allegheny County Jail in Pennsylva-
nia, who were 30 days from release, Spjeldnes, et al. (2012)
tracked the men after their release in an effort to determine
factors that could predict recidivism. The study examined
personal characteristics of the sample and found that 92
percent of inmates, who had been diagnosed as severely
mentally ill from the sample prison population, were
known to be non-adherent to psychiatric medications

before their current arrest and 95 percent had a prior arrest.
It is possible that this non-adherence is due to inadequate
supervision from mental health professionals and deficient
mental health care system within prison facilities. Some
estimates suggest that up to 11 percent of prisoners may
suffer from dual diagnoses or co-occurring diseases – sub-
stance abuse and mental illness being the most prevalent
(Edens et al. 1998). Clearly, these observations suggest that
there might be resources to support only one of the ill-
nesses, and that released prisoners receive worse or no
treatment relative to the general population.
Furthermore, there is also evidence that the spread of

HIV in the community may be disproportionately tied
back to released prisoners. For example, 39 percent of all
HIV-positive women in Rhode Island were first diagnosed
while incarcerated, which suggests that establishing a link
between prison and community follow-up treatment is es-
sential (Flanigan et al. 1996). As described, the treatment
needs for released prisoners are dire and diverse. Ex-
prisoners leave a fully controlled environment in prison
and return to one in which they rely on the community to
help them in the reintegration process. If needs are not
met, returning prisoners may return to crime, and the re-
volving door of the criminal justice system begins to turn
(Morani et al. 2011). The community’s inability to provide
adequate services to released prisoners is further chal-
lenged by the deinstitutionalization of persons with men-
tal illness that began in the 1960s.

Deinstitutionalization in context
Deinstitutionalization has three parts, which includes
“the release of individuals” from the institution into the
community, “their diversion” from entering the institu-
tion, and “the development of alternative community
services” (Lamb and Bachrach 2001, p. 1039). The key to
successful deinstitutionalization and reentry is proper
planning and implementation in all stages of reentry,
which sometimes occur simultaneously. Mental health
deinstitutionalization was driven by both a desire to
maximize effectiveness of resources and a hope to make
the process of treating the mentally ill more humane.
The passage of the “Community Mental Health Act of
1963 was based on the optimism that former residents
of state psychiatric institutions could find meaningful
restoration of their lives back in the community, with
the help of local mental health clinics” (Bond et al. 2004,
p. 572). Unfortunately, the act did not work as intended
because of poor implementation of community services
(Bond et al. 2004). Thus, the community may still be suffer-
ing from its inability to properly treat mental health after
the deinstitutionalization in the 1960s. This is exceptionally
important in the context of released prisoners because, as
stated earlier, the prevalence of mentally ill offenders in-
carcerated in the nation’s jails and prisons present an

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 4 of 12

enormous challenge on communities in which these indi-
viduals will be released to (LaVigne and Mamalian 2004).
One may argue that such a challenge is an indication of
the deinstitutionalization pendulum.
As a result of this deinstitutionalization movement,

more mentally ill individuals, who might have previously
been treated in mental institutions, were being sent to
prison, and, unfortunately, prison often worsens mental
illness before individuals are released back into the com-
munity as seen in Figure 1 (Nicholas and Bryant 2013;
Harcourt 2011). A common theme in both mental
health and prison deinstitutionalization is that the com-
munity is often unprepared to meet the needs of these
reentry populations. This is significant because institutions
often can divert released patients or prisoners from re-
institutionalization by connecting them to community re-
sources, but the community still has not learned how to
adjust to treatment needs of these individuals. In the case
of the mentally ill, it appeared that community institutions
did not have the skills necessary to treat the mentally ill
(Turner and Tenhoor 1978).
It is within this context that the current study aims to

examine the effects of prison deinstitutionalization on
community based intervention modalities. As the deins-
titutionalization of mental institutions in the 1960s is be-
lieved to have inversely impacted incarceration, it is
hypothesized that the same relationship exists – that is,
that there is an inverse relationship between prison
deinstitutionalization and the demand for treatment ser-
vices in the community.

Methods
Research questions and hypotheses
This study set out to address a set of fundamental re-
search questions in the current climate of reversing the

Figure 1 Rates of institutionalization in the United States (per 100,00
E. Harcourt).

40-year upward trend in prison population. How does the
incipient reduction in prison population in different states
affect mental health and substance abuse treatment needs
in local communities? How does the deinstitutionalization
of criminal offenders create new demands for substance
abuse and mental health services in our communities?
This thread of inquiry is based on a hydraulic model of
institutionalization of transinstitutionalization.
This hydraulic framework posits that there are many

overlaps between public safety and mental health needs,
and that psychiatric institutionalization and penal insti-
tutionalization are functionally dependent: squeezing
one system of institutionalization can produce a bulge in
another system of institutionalization (Prins 2011). Just
as earlier deinstitutionalization, which when coupled
with inadequate funding of community-based services
for individuals in need of psychiatric treatment led to
the criminalization of mental illness and attendant in-
creases in prison population (Earley 2006), current
deinstitutionalization of criminal offenders may lead to
the re-institutionalization of psychiatric patients if insuf-
ficient financial and political resources are committed to
the support of offenders with serious mental health or
drug abuse problems in the community. The involve-
ment of individuals with chronic and severe mental
health or substance abuse problems in criminal justice
processes is often known as “entrenchment” because
they remain imprisoned longer, are less likely to receive
community sanctions, and are much more likely to vio-
late their probation or parole conditions and return to
jail or prison than other offenders charged with compar-
able offenses (Prins and Draper 2009). It is usually as-
sumed that the size of this vulnerable population at the
intersection of public health care and criminal justice
supervision has been relatively stable over time. Their

0 adults), 1934–2001. (Reprinting by permission of author, Bernard

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 5 of 12

institutional destination is mostly determined by the
ideological climate and policy environment of the time.
Two hypotheses are thus formulated to explain this

hydraulic linkage between prison population downsizing
and mental health/substance abuse service needs across
the 50 states of the union: (1) Change in the rate of state
imprisonment is negatively associated with change in the
rate of substance abuse treatment admissions in local
communities; the greater the decrease in the size of the
prison population, the greater the increase in the relative
number of substance abuse treatment admissions in the
state, and vice versa; and (2) change in the rate of state
imprisonment is negatively associated with change in the
rate of mental health treatment admissions in local com-
munities; the greater the decrease in the size of the
prison population, the greater the increase in the relative
number of mental health treatment admissions in the
state, and vice versa. These hypotheses were tested with
a national data set covering years 2005–2010.

Data
Longitudinal data with annual standardized measures
such as rates and percentages for this change modeling
were obtained from a number of national data programs
for all 50 states. Change was operationalized as the dif-
ference between two measurements in time. Since efforts
at reversing the long trend of growing prison population
started to gain momentum in the middle of the first dec-
ade of the 21st century (Austin 2010; The Pew Center on
the States 2010), our analytical focus concentrated on
the second half of the decade of the 2000s.
The two exogenous variables, change in the rate of

violent crime between 2005 and 2010 and change in the
past month prevalence of illicit drugs between 2005 and
2010, were constructed from annual standardized mea-
sures of arrests for violent crime and self-report past
month illicit drug use from the Uniform Crime Reports
(UCR) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and
the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

Table 1 Description of variables (N = 50 states)

Variable name Description

Endogenous Variables

Imprisonment Rate Percent change in the rate of state imprisonment per
(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Substance Abuse
Admissions

Percent change in the rate of statewide substance ab
between 2007 and 2010 (Treatment Episodes Data Se
Administration)

Mental Health
Admissions

Percent change in the rate of inpatient admissions in
between 2007 and 2010 (Community Mental Health S

Exogenous Variables

Violent Crime Percent change in the rate of violent offenses per 100

Illicit Drug Use Percent change in the past month prevalence of illicit
and 2010 (National Survey on Drug Use and Substanc

of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) respectively (FBI 2006, 2011;
SAMHSA 2008, 2012a). Change in the rate of state im-
prisonment between 2005 and 2010, the mediating vari-
able in the path model, was computed based on the
annual rate of incarceration in state prisons reported in
the National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) by the Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS) (Harrison and Beck 2006; Guer-
ino, et al. 2011). A two-year time lag was built into the
construction of the last two endogenous variables to spe-
cify the temporal order in the sequencing of events.
First, change in the rate of substance abuse treatment
admissions in the community between 2007 and 2010
was computed from SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data
Set (TEDS) (SAMHSA 2012b). Finally, change in the
rate of in-patient admissions in state psychiatric hospi-
tals between 2007 and 2010 was calculated from the
Mental Health National Outcome Measures (NOMS) by
the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) Uni-
form Reporting System (URS) of SAMHSA.
Table 1 provides a descriptive summary of the vari-

ables used in this analysis. The change in state imprison-
ment rates across the country averaged 0.72 percent
between 2006 and 2010, whereas rates of statewide sub-
stance abuse admissions and inpatient psychiatric admis-
sions changed by −5.59 percent and 9.41 percent
respectively (see Table 1). These fluctuations in institu-
tional statistics took place in a wider context of changes
in violent crime and substance abuse rates in the general
population between 2005 and 2010, which were −4.02
percent and 4.55 percent respectively.

Analytical Strategies
The testing of the hypothesized inverse relationship be-
tween changes in the prison population and changes in
the demands for community-based substance abuse and
mental health services were executed in two stages. First,
a bivariate analysis was performed to yield Pearson’s r
coefficients to detect the shape, direction, and strength

Mean Std. Dev.

100,000 population between 2006 and 2010 0.72 8.52

use treatment admissions per 100,000 population
t – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

−5.59 29.51

state psychiatric hospitals per 1,000 population
ervices – SAMHSA)

9.41 43.61

,000 population between 2005 and 2010 (BJS) −4.02 23.63

drug use per 100,000 population between 2005
e Abuse – SAMHSA)

4.55 13.12

Figure 2 The hydraulic model of institutionalization.

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 6 of 12

of the hypothesized associations. Then, a parsimonious
path analysis model subjected the two hypotheses to a
simple multivariate test. The path analysis model speci-
fied the flow of unidirectional impact from change in the
prison population to changes in the substance abuse and
mental health treatment populations in the community
in the larger contexts of fluctuating levels of violent
crime and illicit drug use (see Figure 2). Since both hy-
potheses were directional propositions asserting a nega-
tive relationship between changes in prison population
and changes in community demands for substance abuse
and mental health services, a one-tail significance test
was implemented in both bivariate and path analysis
models.

Results
Table 2 displays the correlation matrix involving the
five variables included in the analysis. Change in the
state imprisonment rate was negatively correlated with
change in the rate of substance abuse treatment admis-
sions (r = −0.24; p < .05) and the change in the rate of
inpatient admissions in state psychiatric hospitals (r =
0.10; p > .05) as predicted. Only the bivariate

Table 2 Correlation matrix (N = 50 states)

2 3 4 5

1. Imprisonment Rate −0.24* −0.10 0.12 −0.17

2. Substance Abuse Admissions ——— 0.00 −0.05 −0.02

3. Mental Health Admissions ——— −0.01 −0.20*

4. Violent Crime ——— −0.02

5. Illicit Drug Use ———

*p < .05 (one-tail test).

association between imprisonment and substance abuse
treatment admissions attained the conventional thresh-
old of statistical significance. It became important to
see whether the direction and strength of these two
moderate links between change in the prison popula-
tion and the change in the substance abuse and mental
health treatment populations in the community can
withstand the multivariate test from the path analysis
model.

Path Analysis Model
The model Chi-square of 3.087 failed to attain the statis-
tical significance level of .05 (see Table 3), which indi-
cates that the fit between our reduced model and the
data is not significantly worse than the fit between the
just-identified model in which there would be a direct
path from each variable to each other variable (see
Figure 3). With a Normal Fit Index (NFI) of 0.652
(smaller than 0.9) and a Root Mean Square Error of
Approximation (RMSEA) of 0.024 (smaller than 0.05),
we conclude that the overall goodness of fit of the model
is moderate but adequate (Kline 2010).
Essentially, outcomes from the path analysis modeling

replicated and corroborated the bivariate findings. Hold-
ing constant the direct and indirect effects of changes in
the rates of violent crime and illicit drug use, change in
prison population was negatively associated with
changes in the rate of substance abuse (unstandardized
coefficient = −0.891; p < 0.05) and mental health admis-
sions (unstandardized coefficient = −0.509; p > 0.05) in
the community. For every one percentage-point decrease
in the imprisonment rate there was a statistically signifi-
cant increase of a 0.89 percentage-point in the rate of

Table 3 Model fit and effect coefficients of the path
model (N = 50 states)

Model fit

Chi-square (sig. level) 3.087 (0.378)

Norm Fit Index (NFI) 0.652

Root Mean Square Error of Approximation
(RMSEA)

0.024

Effect coefficients of imprisonment rate

Unstandardized
coefficient

Standardized
coefficient

S. E.

Substance Abuse
Admissions

−0.891* −0.257* 0.035

Mental Health
Admissions

−0.509 −1.000 0.243

*p < .05 (one-tail test).

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 7 of 12

substance abuse treatment admissions in the community.
Likewise, every one percentage-point decrease in the rate
of imprisonment was statistically non-significantly con-
nected to a 0.51 percentage-point increase in the rate of
inpatient admissions in state psychiatric institutions.
Both hypothesized associations were in the hypothe-

sized direction, however, only one of them (i.e., the
prison population-substance abuse treatment population
link) was statistically significant. The relatively short
window of observation (i.e., 2005–2010) may have re-
stricted the range of within-case variation over time in
this analysis of hydraulic transmission of institutional-
ized populations across systems. A longer time series
data in the future may provide a better description of
the phenomenon in the post-2000s decline in prison
population. All in all, these outcomes provided partial

Figure 3 Path analysis of the hydraulic model.

but very encouraging support to the two research
hypotheses.

Further Research Implications
The concept of deinstitutionalization is longitudinal in na-
ture; therefore, its measurement and analysis require that
data and modeling techniques should be commensurate
with this necessity. It should also be noted that while the
term ‘deinstitutionalization’ may summarize a national
trend, regional idiosyncrasies and patterns unique to indi-
vidual states must be identified and interpreted. Two basic
questions should guide the theoretical elaboration and
methodological design of future epidemiological studies in
prison deinstitutionalization: First, how does the process
of deinstitutionalization evolve over time in each state?
Second, what demographic, socio-economic, and political
forces predict differences among states in their change?
Other secondary questions will also have to be addressed
in future research including: What is the shape of the
mean trend in deinstitutionalization over time? Do past
levels of incarceration predict the rate of change? Do two
or more groups of states differ in their trajectories? How
does rate of change or degree of curvature in the mean
trend predict local crime rates and/or demands for mental
health and substance abuse services? Does significant
between-state variability exist in the shape of the
trajectory?
On the policy side, the coincidence of the trend of

prison deinstitutionalization with the implementation of
the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, which is the
most revolutionary piece of health care legislation in the
United States in 45 years, calls for intensive monitoring
from public health and criminal justice researchers.

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 8 of 12

Together, these concurrent policy developments will
have a lasting albeit still unknown impact on health out-
comes for inmates, treatment of mental illness in the
community, correctional health care costs and even re-
cidivism. Two sets of ACA provisions should be of par-
ticular interest to researchers and policymakers. First,
the federal government will help states expand Medicaid
coverage by subsidizing 100% of expenditures for all in-
dividuals under age 65 with income below 133% of the
federal poverty level who are not otherwise covered by
Medicaid between 2014 and 2016. The sum of federal
support is planned to decline gradually to 90% by 2020.
Second, treatment of mental health problems and sub-
stance use disorders will be considered essential benefits.
Accordingly, it is assumed that state governments may
find powerful incentives in releasing non-violent inmates
from jails and prisons while sentencing non-violent of-
fenders to community-based sanctions so that the med-
ical and psychiatric needs of these populations can be
better attended in the community with federal funds.
Future research will have to focus on the effects of the
diversion of offenders with mental and substance abuse
problems to the community, the potential increased in-
vestment on the continuity of care as a result of the re-
duced correctional health care expenditures, and the
correlation between reductions in racial disparities in in-
carceration and more equal access to health care in the
community. In addition, it is assumed that the landscape
of services available for such at risk populations will
evolve in such a manner that more somatic and mental
health care needs will be addressed. Yet, these develop-
ments will also have to be examined in future studies.

Discussion and policy implications
The physics principle of connected vessels determines
that the amount of water in various connected vessels
will always aspire to equilibrate. Such principle is based
on the minimal potential energy principle suggesting
that any system will remain in its lowest potential energy
as long as the system enables smooth transition between
different situations. Such principle also applies to the
preliminary findings of this study; here we referred to it
as the hydraulic transmission of institutionalized popula-
tions across systems. By using this principle we argue
that social systems, similar to water moving in closed
tubes, aspire to equilibrate; decrease in prison popula-
tion will not go without a corresponding increase in
community mental health and substance abuse services.
Social voids like those created by deinstitutionalization
must be filled; and with states deinstitutionalizing of-
fenders the toll is on their corresponding communities
to address the needs of those offenders who are reenter-
ing after being incarcerated. Yet, such demand for com-
munity services to the offenders’ population should not

be taken lightly. As previously discussed in this article,
some communities may require more services than
others. Many incarcerated individuals are suffering from
one medical condition or another, while others may be
suffering from the morbidity of physical, mental, and
substance/alcohol issues.
The prevalence of many chronic diseases, substance

abuse, and mental health issues is much higher among in-
carcerated offenders compared to non-offenders (Dretsch
2013; Freudenberg 2001; Watson et al. 2004), and
deinstitutionalization demands that such issues be ad-
dressed. This is more than just moving offenders from jails
and prisons back to the community; this is about public
safety and public health. We suspect that in the near fu-
ture more incarcerated offenders will be released earlier to
the community to alleviate conditions of overcrowding,
and states’ budgetary crises. However, if we are to make
this new deinstitutionalization movement work, proper
planning and action must take place. Society still has re-
sponsibility for the safety and health of all its members,
and that includes those released from our correctional fa-
cilities. With the recent approval of the Affordable Care
Act (ACA) of 2010, released offenders will become eligible
and, as intimated previously, have better access to health
coverage in 2014. Consequently, it is assumed that such
availability to health-related services in the community, to
many individuals who were lacking it before the ACA, will
likely reduce criminal behavior among mentally ill and
those battling addiction. Yet, the ACA does not guarantee
that all those who are in need for psychiatric care will fol-
low their treatment plan. Some simply stop attending their
treatment sessions, while others stop taking their medica-
tions because they think they do not need them anymore
and can do without them. Such course of action will re-
quire better outreach and community monitoring to those
in need.
As discussed by Lamb and Bachrach (2001), deins-

titutionalization is not a one step process, but rather
has three parallel phases: (1) the release of individuals
from the institution into the community; (2) the diver-
sion of individuals from entering the institution; and
(3) the development of alternative community services.
Consequently, any policy that wishes to be successful in
the prison deinstitutionalization movement should in-
volve considerable planning that will target all three
phases, by properly acknowledging the alternatives to
incarceration and institutionalization, and how such al-
ternatives are better equipped to address the needs of
those individuals targeted by the policy. We suggest,
that more should be done at intake stages to identify
the multiple and complex needs and risks of the con-
victed offender. This will enable criminal justice agents
to tailor a more appropriate and individualized course
of action, while also coordinating what services are

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 9 of 12

needed and in what specific geographic locations. Part-
nering with agencies in the community is thus of para-
mount importance to the process, as such agencies will
absorb and treat those who are convicted, as well as
those who have already served time. As mentioned earl-
ier in this section, the landscape of community based
healthcare intervention is about to change over the
coming years. As the U.S. grapples to unwrap the ACA
and estimate the magnitude of its surprise, various
challenges will, without doubt, affect criminal justice
clients and the criminal justice system. Enrolling indi-
viduals involved in the criminal justice system into Me-
dicaid, diverting large numbers of mentally ill and
substance abusing offenders from criminal justice solu-
tions to community-based healthcare interventions,
and fostering partnerships will be one of the biggest
challenges of both deinstitutionalization and the ACA;
two mammoth challenges that share similar interests,
and perhaps even similar destinies.

Implications for Provision of Treatment Service Providers
In devising a policy and practice strategy to address the pro-
jected increase in the reentry population, leadership within
communities for social and supportive services to ex-
prisoners, specifically treatment services should be of pri-
mary concern. This is especially true in those communities
with large counts and densities of returning ex-offenders, as
they face even greater challenges of pro-social integration
and improved public safety. The findings of this study sup-
port the need for organizations that provide treatment ser-
vices to improve accessibility to ex-prisoners and improve
pro-social reintegration for ex-offenders in their communi-
ties. Specifically, reentry stakeholders should be encouraged
to take a leadership role in building the outreach and net-
working capacity for treatment services for ex-offenders.
This step, which consists of outreach, networking, com-
munity justice/reentry partnerships and funding resource
building, requires strategic planning, implementation, and
evaluation. These organizations should develop policies
which would: (1) engage in more outreach to ex-prisoners;
(2) engage in more networking between other service pro-
viders, community organizations and community justice
and governmental agencies; and (3) seek more reentry
funding to increase provision of treatment services.

Outreach
Several elements of outreach are relevant at this junc-
ture. First, ex-prisoners need to be made aware of men-
tal health services prior to release. Most often ex-
offenders do not get connected to the treatment services
they need. Accordingly, it is vital to examine the experi-
ences and preparedness of those individuals revolving
through the criminal justice system, and how the system
addresses their special needs, be they mental health,

substance abuse, or any other health related needs
(Gideon 2013). These are essential for orchestrating
smoother transitions from incarceration back to the
community. Such practice is known as discharge plan-
ning, and it provides the critical link between prison-
based intervention process and the transition back to
the community. The ultimate goal of the discharge plan
is to link inmates with appropriate health and other hu-
man service providers in the community (Mellow et al.
2008), in order to ease the transition and to reduce the
risk of recidivism. An essential part of the discharge plan
is the need for outreach programs that will identify and
direct needed individuals in the right direction. Specific-
ally, the process of outreach must begin during pre-
release and continue through the last stage of reentry,
called post-supervision. Research has found that only
about a third of organizations engage in pre-release out-
reach (Frazier 2008).
Mental health organizations should be encouraged and

provided opportunities by correctional facilities at every
level (federal, state, and county) to do the same. Sec-
ondly, outreach must address issues of eligibility and ac-
cessibility. Individuals returning from prison and jail
face an array of challenges: not only are they grappling
with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and hope-
lessness, they must also negotiate the bureaucratic hur-
dles required by many agencies. In a study by Frazier
(2008), providers stated that making the requirements
and processes clear and intelligible is an initial step that
could assist ex-prisoners. Thirdly, community organiza-
tions of all types should be encouraged to share informa-
tion on services available to ex-prisoners, especially
those that have completed their sentences and are no
longer connected to the criminal justice system. A con-
centrated effort must be made throughout the entire
community to create more awareness of services that or-
ganizations claim they are able to provide, especially ser-
vices that assist in successful reintegration. These
organizations, as well as ex-prisoners, should also be en-
gaged in finding new and better ways to reach out to in-
dividuals returning from prison or jail, connecting them
with services.

Networking
Taking the leadership role of networking should be ad-
dressed on two fronts: community justice/reentry partner-
ships, as well as both formal and informal networking
among all organizations within the community, even those
that do not provide social and supportive services to ex-
prisoners. Community justice/reentry partnerships take
place between criminal justice agencies (i.e. the courts,
parole and probation, and the police) and community or-
ganizations and institutions. Presently, few organizations
collaborate with parole and probation agencies at the

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 10 of 12

federal, state, or county levels (Frazier 2008). These and
other collaborations should be encouraged to grow and
continue, while new ones should be encouraged to de-
velop. The benefits of such networks considerably im-
prove the provision of services and other desired
outcomes, such as improved outreach.

Funding
Because funding is the primary barrier to increased
provision of treatment services, leadership is needed to
promote education and awareness of funding streams
and processes. Since many treatment service organiza-
tions lack the resources necessary to seek and success-
fully apply for additional potential funding, leadership in
partnering with funding sources to provide workshops
and seminars that could be valuable for organizations
seeking to serve more ex-prisoners. Leadership is also
needed to determine and share best practices that may
improve capacity without increased funding. In other
words, more direction on ways to improve efficiency and
effectiveness would also help organizations to improve
their ability to serve more ex-prisoners.

Conclusion
Deinstitutionalization should not be about becoming
more lenient or less punitive; it should be about being
pro-social and supportive of the reintegration of ex-
offenders while maintaining the health and safety of the
community. Years of valuable research informs us that
we cannot, and should not, tolerate practices of locking
up people as the sole means of punishment (Clear 1994),
as such practice have a negative effect on our communi-
ties. Ignoring the needs of the incarcerated as well as
those of society, does more harm than good, and will re-
sult in the failure of deinstitutionalization as once before
experienced by the deinstitutionalization of the mentally
ill. Further, failure to address the needs of those diverted,
and otherwise released from prison may also result in in-
crease of violent crimes, which in turn, will create a new
cry for more incarceration. Such destructive cycle must
be broken if the present prison deinstitutionalization
movement is not to mirror that of the previous mental
health deinstitutionalization movement.
While the present study focuses on mental health and

substance abuse treatment, every area of healthcare
(HIV/AIDS and primary health care, alcohol and sub-
stance abuse treatment, and mental and behavioral
health treatment) is seen to be of great need within the
community. In addition, in-patient treatment is among
the least provided services and these providers have the
least capacity to serve more ex-prisoners (Frazier 2008).
Effort and great attention must be given to each individ-
ual healthcare arena instead of viewing them in concert.
The various services, issues, and treatments must be

viewed separately and we must remember that each pro-
vider type may face somewhat different challenges. Ac-
cessibility not only includes issues of location and
proximity to service providers, it also includes access to
treatment and available treatment options.
Additionally, mental illness and substance abuse—of-

ten co-existing disorders—place ex-prisoners at high risk
of re-incarceration, reconviction, or re-arrest and also
contribute to instability in employment and housing.
Some ex-prisoners are treated for both mental illness
and substance abuse while incarcerated; however, once
released, most often there is no continuum of care. Even
fewer ex-prisoners receive treatment for HIV/AIDS be-
cause there is no mandatory testing for inmates (Maca-
lino et al. 2004; Drucker 2011; Maruschak et al. 2012).
While strict Health Insurance Portability and Account-
ability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) laws prevent sharing of pa-
tient information, efforts must be made to improve the
continuum of care for those receiving treatment while
incarcerated. Attention must also be given to building
partnerships to share referrals and find other ways to
provide these desperately needed healthcare services.
With the ACA the potential barriers to the treatment of
those offenders diverted/deinstitutionalized should be
identified and resolved before it is too late. Positioning
available services to released offenders, and those who
are in the community and foster such needed partner-
ships will determine the success of both movements.

Study Limitations
Readers should be aware of two limitations in our data,
one of theoretical nature and the other with methodo-
logical implications. First, the use of change in state im-
prisonment rates as the mediating variable in the model
did not allow the discrimination of prison admissions
from prison releases. While most discussions have focused
on penal policy reforms leading to decreases in prison
populations, it is also true that violent crime rates have
dramatically declined across the country since the 1990s.
Therefore, recent reductions in prison populations could
have been triggered by both decreased admissions (due to
crime decline and a more widely use of diversion pro-
grams) and increased releases. Since the hydraulic model
hypothesized in this analysis assumed a relative stability in
the total size of institutionalized populations and an in-
verse correlation between correctional institutionalization
and psychiatric institutionalization, the exclusion of mea-
sures of prison admission and release did not affect the
goodness of data for the testing of the two hypotheses.
Second, time series data used in this analysis pertained

to the 2005–2010 period. This relatively short span of
observation rendered a longitudinal sample with a lim-
ited number of years, which may have restricted the stat-
istical power of our analysis. As a result, the risk of type

Frazier et al. Health and Justice (2015) 3:9 Page 11 of 12

II error or the failure to reject a false null hypothesis
was high, making our results conservative in nature.
That is, the probability of missing the true effect of
prison populations on community treatment populations
was much higher than the probability of detecting the
effect when it did not exist.

Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions
BDF provided conceptual and theoretical framework, and recommendations.
HS and LG provided research designed, statistical analysis and findings. KA
provided the literature review, assisted in identifying data, and collected and
input secondary data.All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Author details
1Department of Law, Police Science & Criminal Justice Administration, John
Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019,
USA. 2Department of Criminal Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA.

Received: 25 March 2015 Accepted: 25 March 2015

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  • c.40352_2015_Article_21_30423.pdf
    • Abstract
      • Background
      • Methods
      • Results
      • Conclusion
    • Background
    • Literature Review
      • Overwhelming need for treatment services
      • Deinstitutionalization in context
    • Methods
      • Research questions and hypotheses
      • Data
      • Analytical Strategies
    • Results
      • Path Analysis Model
      • Further Research Implications
    • Discussion and policy implications
      • Implications for Provision of Treatment Service Providers
      • Outreach
      • Networking
      • Funding
    • Conclusion
      • Study Limitations
    • Competing interests
    • Authors’ contributions
    • Author details
    • References
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