Patterns of substance use, overdose and recidivism among recently released prisoners in Queensland

Criminology Research Council grant ; (27/03-04)

Prisoners as a group are characterised by chronic social disadvantage, poor mental health, high rates of substance use, a high rate of recidivism and increased rates of both fatal and non-fatal overdose post-release. Nevertheless, little is known about patterns of substance use or other risk factors among recently released prisoners. Using a prospective design, 108 male and 52 female prisoners in Queensland participated in interviews prior to release from custody, then one and four months post-release. Interviews explored patterns of drug use prior to, during and after incarceration, socioeconomic status, physical and mental health, medical treatment, overdose risk factors and other risk-taking behaviour. The findings highlighted both the high prevalence and the chronicity of substance misuse, mental health problems and psychosocial impairment among prisoners and ex-prisoners, and provided further evidence of a link between substance misuse and poor outcomes (including recidivism) post-release. Consistent with a growing number of studies worldwide, these findings point to an urgent need for adequately funded, evidence based post-release services for prisoners.