Angela Davis, Amy Kirwan, Professor Mark Stoové


Reoffending and reincarceration among people with illicit drug use histories drives much of the social and economic burden associated with imprisonment in Australia. Incarceration is not an effective strategy for preventing reoffending or rehabilitating prisoners, yet it is prioritised at the expense of adequately resourcing responses that meet their complex post-release health and social support needs of people that contribute to risk of imprisonment. In addition to resource constraints, community services are often siloed and focus on single issues, rather than wrapping around an individual person likely to have multiple and complex needs. 


The project aims to use co-design strategies to develop an innovative, evidenced informed and needs based service model of to meet the needs of people release from prison in Victoria with alcohol and other drug dependence histories.

Who Will Benefit?

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


In collaboration with service provider partners, the Burnet Institute is implementing a series of co-design workshops and associated activities involving people with lived experience of incarceration and drug use and relevant service providers. Iterative co-design activities will build towards the development of service system options that best meet the needs of clients, while offering an effective and sustainable model to reduce rates of recidivism and reincarceration and improve the health and social well-being of individuals and their families. The Burnet Institute hopes that a successful development phase will lead to future implementation and evaluation phases to generate evidence of long term impact on health, wellbeing and re-incarceration rates among this underserved population.


The project offers an opportunity to design and later trial an effective and person-centred approach to reducing the individual, social and economic costs of criminal justice approaches to drug use. With people with drug use and often co-occurring mental health problems grossly over-represented in prison populations and among people who re-offend, this project offers the opportunity to catalyse a new approach to reduce the substantial social and economic costs of criminal justice responses to drug use.


Approximately 1600 people have been recruited into the cohort study. Data collection for the cohort study will be complete by the end of March 2020.


2020 – 2021


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