The Physical and Mental Health of Incarcerated Persons: A Canadian Perspective

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Colin Henning


There is a growing body of research examining the physical and mental health status of persons incarcerated in Canada. However, in comparison to research conducted in other countries around the world, research on persons incarcerated in Canada remains limited. There is also a lack of literature reviews that provide a broad and comprehensive examination of research on both physical and mental health conditions experienced by incarcerated person in Canada and the wellness programming designed to manage these conditions. The purpose of this literature review is to provide a broad overview of the relevant literature from a variety of sources, taking a multidisciplinary approach to examining the health of incarcerated persons in Canada and the effectiveness of wellness programs designed for this population. Overall, the current literature demonstrates incarcerated persons in Canada experience a wide variety of both physical and mental health conditions at higher rates than found in the general population, including acute and chronic physical health conditions, mental health disorders, and suicide. In particular, current research suggests older individuals and Indigenous peoples incarcerated in Canada face an even greater health burden than the general prison population. Encouraging, however, is the reviewed literature demonstrating the effectiveness of a variety of wellness programs implemented with incarcerated persons, including physical exercise and education programs. To encourage further work in this area, the present literature review ends with a discussion
of recommendations for future wellness programs and the research work conducted to evaluate them.

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