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23 Oct. 2019

AIHW The Health of Australia's prisoners 2018

The Australian Institite of Health and Welfare released The Health of Australia's prisoners 2018 in October. The report outlines Australia’s prisoners are significantly and disproportionately affected by the use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD). 

Of interest to the AOD sector, the report found About 1 in 3 (34%) prison entrants were at high risk of alcohol-related harm during the previous 12 months, more than 1 in 3 people in prison are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples, almost 1 in 3 (30%) prison entrants reported needing to see a health professional in prison in the previous 12 months, but not doing so. About 1 in 12 (8%) prison dischargees reported they had injected drugs in prison, equating to about half of prison dischargees who reported using illicit drugs in prison.

Section 12.2 found "With the high proportion of people in custody who reported that, while in the community, they consumed alcohol at levels considered high risk for alcohol-related harm, there is a clear need for alcohol-treatment services to be available in prison, then continued into the community after release."

3 in 4 prison entrants were current smokers

Most (75%) prison entrants said they were current smokers. Indigenous prison entrants (80%) were more likely than non-Indigenous entrants (73%), and women (86%) were more likely than men (73%) to be current smokers. More than 2 in 5 (41%) prison entrants who were current smokers said that they would like to quit.

Almost 2 in 3 prison entrants reported using illicit drugs in the previous year

Almost two-thirds (65%) of prison entrants reported using illicit drugs during the previous 12 months. Female prison entrants (74%) were more likely to report recent illicit drug use than male entrants (64%), and non-Indigenous entrants (66%) were more likely than Indigenous entrants (63%). Methamphetamine was the most common illicit drug used, followed by cannabis. Almost 1 in 6 (16%) prison dischargees reported using illicit drugs in prison, and 1 in 12 (8%) said they had injected drugs in prison.

Of the prison entrants tested for blood-borne viruses, 1 in 5 tested positive for hepatitis C

In 2016, more than 1 in 5 (22%) prison entrants tested positive for hepatitis C antibodies—about 1 in 5 (21%) male prison entrants and more than 1 in 4 (28%) female prison entrants (Butler & Simpson 2017). About half (50%) of the prison entrants who had previously injected drugs had positive hepatitis C antibody tests—52% of males, and 45% of females.

More than 1 in 2 prison dischargees expected they would be homeless on release

Homelessness is far more common among people in contact with the prison system than among people in the general community. About one-third (33%) of prison entrants said they were homeless in the 4 weeks before prison—28% were in short-term or emergency accommodation, and 5% were in unconventional housing or sleeping rough. More than half (54%) of prison dischargees expected to be homeless on release from prison, with 44% planning to sleep in short term or emergency accommodation, 2% planning to sleep rough, and 8% did not know where they would sleep.

To read the entire report, please click here.