Reduction in Recidivism of Incarcerated Women through Primary Care, Peer Counseling, and Discharge Planning
Prior to release from the Rhode Island state prison, women at the highest risk for reincarceration and HIV infection are assigned to the Women's HIV/Prison Prevention Program (WHPPP), a discharge program designed to reduce the likelihood of reincarceration and HIV infection. Candidates for the WHPPP must meet at least one of three criteria: intravenous drug use or crack use, commercial sex work, or a history of prison recidivism with poor educational history and poor employment prospects. While incarcerated, the program participant develops a relationship with a physician and a social worker and establishes an individualized discharge plan. After release, the same physician and social worker continue to work with the client and assist an outreach worker in implementing the discharge plan. Data were collected from questionnaires administered to 78 women enrolled in the WHPPP between 1992 and 1995. The population in this program was primarily composed of ethnic minorities (55%), 25-35 years of age (55%), unmarried (90%), had children (72%), and displayed a variety of HIV risk behaviors. The WHPPP recidivism rates were compared with those of a mostly white (65%), similarly aged (51% were between 25 and 35 years of age) historical control group of all women incarcerated in Rhode Island in 1992. The intervention group demonstrated lower recidivism rates than the historical control group at 3 months (5% versus 18.5%, p = 0.0036) and at 12 months (33% versus 45%, p = 0.06). Assuming that recidivism is a marker for high-risk behavior, participation in the WHPPP was associated with a reduction in recidivism and in the risk of HIV disease in this very high risk group of women.