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The post-release experience of prisoners in Queensland

Abstract

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.

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