joint work with Prof. Randi Hjlamarsson at Gothenburg University

 

This paper analyzes the impact of longer prison exposure on post-release health outcomes (hospitalization and mortality) by taking advantage of two Swedish early release reforms in 1993 and 1999 that held prison sentences constant but changed the share of time inmates were required to serve from one-half to two-thirds. Shorter and longer sentences were treated by the 1993 and 1999 reforms, respectively. Exposure to the 1993 reform led to large, significant and permanent reductions in post-release psychiatric and narcotics hospitalization days as well as the chance of suicide. The 1999 reform led to short-run increases in psychiatric and narcotics hospitalizations, but a short run decrease in the number of narcotics related deaths. Importantly, neither reform had any negative impact on general health. Beneficial effects were mainly found at the lower end of the prison sentence distribution and were concentrated among those with pre-incarceration histories of psychiatric disorders and unemployment.