Professor Eileen Baldry, Professor Paul Dietze, Associate Professor Peter Higgs, Professor Mark Stoové, Professor Carla Treloar


Associations between health and well-being of prisoners and recidivism are complex and inter-related. Prisoners have poor outcomes on physical and mental health measures, as well as on socio-economic measures such as poor education, housing, employment and relationships with family which are directly linked to health outcomes, repeat offending and recidivism. A history of injecting drug use and dependence on illicit drugs for a large number of prisoners is a particularly problematic aspect of these pathways.

While the transition from prison to the community offers a key intervention point, there has been little progress in serving the pre- and post-release needs of this vulnerable population. 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. 


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 the ways in which key health and social variables (injecting drug use and housing status in particular) affect the needs expressed by and resources available to ex-prisoners; and

4. Identify crucial intervention opportunities to promote the health and well-being of people released from prison in the post-release period and affect change in recidivism.

Who Will Benefit?

People with histories of dependent drug use who become involved in the criminal justice system are the primary beneficiaries of this work. Key stakeholders involved in the delivery of services to people released from custody will also benefit. The project will offer broader social and community safety benefits as well a mechanism to reduce the substantial and increasing economic costs associated with incarceration.


The study will recruit participants through those already enrolled in the SuperMIX study (a study coordinated by The Burnet Institute). In-dpeth qualitative interviews with participants will explore the intersection between two articulated indicators of risk -housing and drug use. The study will specifically examine the strategies and resources available to and used by ex-prisoners who inject drugs. Key factors in the pre-incarceration, during prison and post-release trajectories of participants that relate to housing and drug use outcomes will be examined. A “positive deviance” approach to interrogating this data will allow us to examine and compare trajectories of sub-samples within defined epidemiological categories of risk exploring the individual, social and structural resources available to and used by participants.


Given the complex web of possible factors which can contribute to re-offending, sharpening the focus on a significant sub-sample of people recently released from prison (i.e., released within previous 12 months), this sub-study will allow for greater precision in efforts to investigate and understand these complexities with the ultimate goal of generating recommendations for interventions.


Approximately 50 qualitative interviews have been conducted and thematic analysis of transcripts are continuing.


Schroeder S, Marshall AD, Lafferty L, Baldry E, Higgs P, Dietze P, Stoové M, Treloar C ‘SET UP TO FAIL’: THE POST-RELEASE EXPERIENCE OF PRISONERS WITH A HISTORY OF INJECTION DRUG USE. International Network on Hepatitis in Substance Users Conference, Montreal, 2019.


2019 – 2020


For more information relating to this project, please contact Mark Stoové: