The post-release experience of prisoners in Queensland
- Brisbane: University of Queensland, March 2006 (online only)
- Criminology Research Council grant no. 27/03-04
- Download report (PDF 1.3MB)
In recognition of the need for an improved understanding of the experiences of prisoners in Australia after they are released, this project had three main goals: i) describe the patterns of drug and alcohol use, mental health status and broader socio-economic status of recently released prisoners; ii) identify the prevalence of suspected risk factors for overdose among recently released prisoners; and iii) identify predictors of re-incarceration within a six-month period (including pre-incarceration patterns of drug use). It used a prospective design to follow a cohort of adult prisoners being released to the community in Queensland. Interviews were conducted with 108 male and 52 female prisoners in the weeks prior to their release, with follow-up interviews completed on average one month and four months post-release. Due to the small sample size the findings of this study can be considered only suggestive, however a number of important issues have been identified. First, there is strong evidence of continuity in the substance-related, mental health and psychosocial problems experienced by this group. Second, there remains a large unmet need for support and assistance for recently released prisoners. Substance use is a significant problem for many ex-prisoners, however many ex-prisoners are experiencing problems including impaired health, poor mental health, and chronic social disadvantage and marginalisation. In Queensland, the recent introduction of the Transitions pre-release program has assisted some prisoners in preparing for a return to the community, however these need to be complemented by effective, evidence-based post-release programs, designed to assist the individual to integrate back into the community. The few post-release programs that exist are fragmented, often under-funded and usually based on limited evidence. A useful next step in bringing the concept of 'throughcare' into policy and practice would be the development and rigorous evaluation of an integrated post-release support program, building on the pre-release programs already in place, and linking prisoners with the communities to which they will eventually return.