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Cohort study of ex-prisoners with a history of injecting drug use

High rates of injecting drug use, blood borne virus infection and poor physical and mental health characterise a rapidly growing prisoner population in Australia.

Unresolved health issues, especially those related to drug use and mental health, affect recidivism and the continued cycling of high-risk populations through the justice system.

Finding effective responses is hampered by our only partial understanding of prisoner health needs and the extent to which these are identified and appropriate responses integrated into pre- and post-release care plans.

To help fill this gap in knowledge we are undertaking the largest ever prospective study of ex-prisoners with a history of injecting drug use in Australia.


600 prisoners with a history of injecting drug use will be interviewed in the weeks leading up to their release and then followed up three months, one year and two years after their release.

Interviews will cover demographics, drug use and treatment histories, pre/post release service access and utilisation, criminal involvement and incarceration history, drug using risk behaviours and standardised measures of health.

Data collection will also involve the collection of blood samples to examine the pre and post-release exposures to blood borne viruses, and record linkage to health and law enforcement data bases will compliment this data.

Conducted in collaboration with Justice Health (Victoria) and researchers from the University of New South Wales and Monash University, this project will provide important insights to inform policy and practice to prevent ongoing morbidity and recidivism and re-incarceration in this population.

Mark Stoove

Professor Mark A Stoové

Contact Professor Mark A Stoové for more information about this project.



  • NHMRC Project Grant