At any one time over 40,000 individuals are detained in prisons in Australia with many more cycling through the prison system each year.  Significantly more individuals are processed by the courts, serve non-custodial sentences, or are under supervision in the community.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are massively overrepresented in the justice system.  Prisoners represent one of the most disadvantaged and stigmatised groups in the community and have some of the worst health outcomes of any group in the community. 

Our research focuses on the nexus between the health and justice systems with a range of groups such as incarcerated men and women, justice-involved young people, older prisoners, community-based offenders, and ex-prisoners.  These groups have some of the worst health outcomes in the community necessitating a broad portfolio of work covering mental health, violence, domestic violence, communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive health, traumatic brain injury, tobacco smoking, chronic health conditions and substance use.  

Our goals

Our research aims to generate new knowledge and identify interventions to tackle the social determinants of crime, prevent incarceration, and improve health, justice and welfare outcomes for those in contact with the justice system. We use a diverse range of methodologies including randomised control trials, cross-sectional surveys, qualitative research, data-linkage, deliberative approaches, natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and text mining.

Research strengths

Our research interests include: 

  • Mental illness and offending.
  • Interventions for men and women who use violence.  
  • Data linkage & text mining (domestic violence police narratives). 
  • Surveillance of domestic violence using police text narratives.  
  • Prisoners’ sexual health behaviours and attitudes to sex.  
  • Health assessment and reintegration of older people in prison
  • Health literacy and digital literacy of people leaving prison
  • Tobacco smoking in prisons & post-release relapse prevention. 
  • Identification of trends in research involving offending populations
  • Ethical aspects of justice health research and prisoners’ views of research priorities.

Our impact

Human rights and advocacy are features of our work contributing to important narratives in the justice health area such as: the over incarceration of Aboriginal people in Australia’s prisons, decarceration, prison overcrowding, diversion away from prison into mental health treatment, histories of trauma and violence among prisoners, and issues raised by the ageing prisoner population.

Our experts

Professor Tony Butler
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Research Fellow Paul Simpson
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Research Fellow Jane Hwang
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Research Fellow George Karystianis
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Senior Research Associate Patricia Morgan
Senior Research Associate
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Innovation & impact

Our teaching

We pride ourselves on the nexus of our teaching and research. We do this in partnership with communities, centres and institutes, health services and people with lived experience and expertise.

Our research & impact

Our research and impact promotes health equity, strengthens health systems and improves access to high quality care for all people in Australia and worldwide.

Our strategy

Our Health 25 Strategy aims to improve the quality of life for all by tackling the complex and important health challenges of our times.