Purpose - This paper proposes a framework to better understand ex-prisoner health, and pilot-tests the framework using qualitative interviews with ten people who have been out of prison for two years or more. The proposed framework considers different stages of re-entry (from pre-incarceration through to post-release), individual and structural factors influencing health, and health outcomes. Design/methodology/approach - The authors conducted qualitative, open-ended interviews with ex-prisoners released from prison two or more years ago, who could be considered to have transitioned “successfully” out of prison. The aim of the interviews was to generate insights into the strategies that ex-prisoners use to negotiate the post-release period. Findings - Most of the themes that emerged from interviews were consistent with the proposed framework. Structural factors are important concerns for ex-prisoners that may have to be resolved before other issues, such as drug addiction, can be addressed. However, these findings suggest that it is inappropriate to view health-related experiences during re-entry as homogenous, given the diversity of individual characteristics and backgrounds among ex-prisoners, notably including pre-incarceration social status. Originality/value - To explain the health-related experiences of people following their release from prison, we need to think beyond reintegration and move beyond homogenous notions of the ex-prisoner population. Addressing sociocultural, demographic and incarceration-specific factors that ameliorate or intensify the challenges faced by ex-prisoners is of critical importance.