Methods:This study used mixed methods cross-sectional correlation design. Using a self administered online survey in a northeastern sample of CCSPs, partiipants were asked about what factors facilitated and/or created barriers to adults aged 50+ poised to be released from prison. The four step Dillman et al. (2009) data collection strategy was used to recruit participants via a central email list of CCSPs staff that provided prison and/or reentry services. The survey included a battery of closed and open-ended questions that asked CCSPs about their attitudes about and practices with the justice involved aging population. Eighty-three front line practitioners were recruited that included diverse professionals, such as social workers, correctional and probation/parole officers, and mental health-and-health-educational professionals. The quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics. The qualitative data was analyzed using the content analysis strategies as outlined by Drisko and Maschi (2015).
Findings: The participants identified a complex array of problems that differentiated the older from the younger criminal justice population, which included stigma based on age and criminal conviction history, lack of specialized housing, health, social services, employment, mental health and substance abuse services and fragmented service coordination. The four most needed services were identified as specialized supportive housing, health, mental health, and education, and training/employment. Five major factors were identified that facilitated successful community reintegration, increased quality of life, and reduced recidivism risk: coordination, communication, engagement, support, and empowerment. Several participants stressed the importance of coordinated care that begins in prison prior to release and continues after they are released among the older adults and CCSPs. The second factor involved the cooperative communication among the justice involved older adults with their families and with CCSPs. The effective use of communication with older adults and among community partners and consistent intersectoral collaboration was viewed as integral for integrating and mending fragmented service provision for justice involved older adults with complex care needs. The last three factors consisted of engagement, support, and empowerment. These factors included CCSPs use of engagement with older adults, the use of peer, family, and community supports, and empowerment practices that involved older adults in the decision-making process about their treatment and reintegration planning.
Implications: The purpose of this study was to identify factors that help facilitate the successful reintegration of older adults to the community. Based on the findings, community reintegration approaches that promote an inclusive culture of collaboration and that incorporates five key factors of coordination, communication, engagement, support, and empowerment are warranted. Forensic geriatric social workers have an important role in transforming the service system and reducing stigma and barriers to services for this vulnerable population of older adults and their families and communities.