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% of the prison 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 people released from prison who inject drugs to capture the inter-relationships between their multi-faceted needs. The results are directly applicable to understanding how in-prison and post-release health and other support programs can support people released from prison 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 people released from prison who inject drugs.
  2. Identify the strategies, resources and services used by these people 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, people released from prison.
  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.
Research Centre

Centre for Social Research in Health

Research Area

Hepatitis and Harm Reduction

  • Lafferty, L., Schroeder, S., Marshall, A. D., Drysdale, K., Higgs, P., Stoové, M., Baldry, E., Dietze, P., & Treloar, C. (2023). Trust and service engagement among people who inject drugs after release from prison. International journal of drug policy, 111, 103925. 10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103925
  • Schroeder S, Drysdale K, Lafferty L, Marshall A, Baldry E, Higgs P, Dietze P, Stoove M and Treloar C. (2022). “‘It’s a revolving door’: Ego-depletion among prisoners with injecting drug use histories as a barrier to post-release success", International Journal of Drug Policy. Volume 101, March 2022, 103571.
  • Treloar C, Schroeder S, Lafferty L, Marshall A, Drysdale K, Higgs P, Baldry E, Stoove M, Dietze P. (2021). “Structural competency in the post-prison period for people who inject drugs: a qualitative case study”, International Journal of Drug Policy. Volume 95, September 2021, 103261.
  • Marshall, A., Schroeder, S., Lafferty, L., Drysdale, K., Baldry, E., Stoove, M., Dietze, P., Higgs, P., and Treloar, C. (2023). “Perceived Access to Opioid Agonist Treatment in Prison among People with a History of Injection Drug Use: A Qualitative Study”, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. (online 12 May) -

In response to findings from the project, researchers and community members collaborated to produce a three part series related to the overarching themes identified in the research: ego-depletion, structural competency, and trust. The results were evocative and compelling narratives that illustrate the difficulties faced, and strategies used to aid successful reintegration back into community, following the post-release period. The three pieces below align with each of these themes.


VIDEO: Support services failing to keep offenders out of prisonABC News (online), 25 July 2023

COMMENTARY: ‘They weren’t there when I needed them’: we asked former prisoners what happens when support services failThe Conversation (online), 25 July 2023

MEDIA: Hate ThisInsider News (print) and User News (online), 5 July 2023

MEDIA: Shining a light on the hope-filled stressful journeys of people leaving jailInsider News (print) and User News (online), 8 May 2023

MEDIA: Inherent Problems With Post-Incarceration Services for Drug UsersFilter, February 2023

MEDIA: Prison & Performance: An innovative new project is using the arts to bring research aliveThe Bulletin, November 2022

SEMINAR RECORDING: Using novel research translation to change public attitudes:A difficult task for formerly incarcerated people with histories of injecting drug use, presented 20 July 2022

COMMENTARY: Using art to prevent recidivism and change attitudes towards people who inject drugs and have been in prisonAustralian Human Rights Institute, November 2021


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

UNSW - Eileen Baldry

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