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Justice Health

Prisoners and ex-prisoners in Australia and across the globe are disproportionately affected by social disadvantage, chronic ill health, preventable disease (including blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections), mental health issues and high rates of substance use. Burnet undertakes research to build the evidence base for policy and practice to improve health outcomes for prisoners and ex-prisoners.

Our main objectives are to:

  • build upon national and international collaborations to enable a central role in internationally significant studies that identify effective, evidence-based interventions for improving and maintaining the health of justice-involved populations
  • build and strengthen collaborations with correctional services nationwide, to facilitate the translation of our research into effective health policy and service delivery
  • undertake research to explore how health, health risk behaviours, psychosocial adjustment and engagement with health services change and are impacted by contact with, and release from the criminal justice system; and explore the links between health, social integration and offending behaviour.

We do innovative, scientifically rigorous and policy-relevant research projects that employ a range of methodologies, including prospective cohort designs, randomised controlled trials and record linkage to enhance the evidence base for justice health policy and practice.

Through our partnerships with national and international organisations, Burnet is at the forefront of research efforts aimed at identifying evidence-based interventions that can improve the health and wellbeing of prisoners and ex-prisoners.


is the number of people recently released from Australian prisons with a history of injecting drug use who are participating in Burnet’s PATH Cohort Study. Researchers are following the trajectories of participants for two years after being released from imprisonment, exploring a range of outcomes relating to health, welfare and involvement with the justice system.


people we have recruited into a study looking at ways to support people with drug use histories to avoid re-incarceration. Ultimately, it’s hoped that this research and subsequent study phases will lead to long-term impacts on health, wellbeing and re-incarceration rates among this underserved population.


the number of deaths among recently released prisoners in Australia is estimated to be ten times greater than the total number of deaths in prison each year. This data is from research led by former Burnet researcher, Associate Professor Stuart Kinner, as published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

14 days

following release from prison is when non-fatal opioid overdose incidence was highest, according to the findings of recent Burnet research. This study linked the data from 400 men who injected drugs at least once a month before their imprisonment in Victoria with ambulance records to estimate how often non-fatal opioid overdoses occur post-release from prison. 

Working Groups

Burnet is an Australian-based medical research and public health institute and international non-government organisation that is working towards a more equitable world through better health.