The annual cost of imprisonment in Australia is $100,000 per inmate. Challenges associated with release from prison and subsequent reincarceration are a major ongoing problem as the national prison population grows to unprecedented levels. People with a history of injecting drug use (PWID) are a key population to examine, given they constitute up to 58 per cent of the prisoner population and report extremely high reincarceration rates. Interventions that can reduce reincarceration among PWID are therefore urgently needed.

The transition from prison to the community offers a key intervention point, yet the lack of research examining inmates’ experiences negotiating the complex post-release world in which health, social and criminogenic factors intersect, and which unpacks the trajectory of release-from-prison to return-to-prison, impedes the development of effective policies and interventions. This project uses a sophisticated qualitative research method to examine the lived experience of ex-prisoners who inject drugs to capture the inter-relationships between ex-prisoners’ multi-faceted needs. The results are directly applicable to understanding how in-prison and post-release health and other support programs can support ex-prisoners to achieve better outcomes on health, wellbeing, social and criminogenic measures, particularly recidivism. In-depth interviews examined the perceived health and social needs, informal strategies adopted and health/social services utilised by participants, and novel research dissemination tools were used to translate these findings.

Aims of the project:

  1. Identify the health-related needs of ex-prisoners who inject drugs.
  2. Identify the strategies, resources and services used by these ex-prisoners since release to manage their health needs.
  3. Examine how key health and social variables (injecting drug use and housing status in particular) affect the needs expressed by and resources available to ex-prisoner.
  4. Identify crucial intervention opportunities to promote the health and wellbeing of people released from prison in the post-release period and affect change in recidivism.

  • Burnet Institute - Mark Stoove, Paul Dietze, Peter Higgs, Sophia Schroeder

    UNSW - Eileen Baldry, Alison Marshall