A study has found that prisoners who are released recently face greater death risk, with more than one a day dying within a year of release.
Dr Stuart Kinner of
the Burnet Institute's Centre for Population Health and co-authors analysed two
independent, state-based record linkage studies from Western
Australia and New South
Wales to derive estimates of death rates for
They estimated that
in 2007-08, between 380 and 527 ex-prisoners died within one year of release
and, of those, up to 30 per cent died in their first four weeks out of jail.
overdose is a leading cause of death for recently released prisoners, more than
50 per cent of deaths in this study were not drug-related," Dr Kinner said.
underscore the importance of moving beyond simplistic messages about reduced
drug tolerance and overdose risk in the first few weeks of release, to build a
more sophisticated, evidence-based approach to reducing mortality among
ex-prisoners from multiple preventable causes over at least the first year
The annual number of
deaths among recently released prisoners was far greater than the annual number
of deaths in custody, he said.
"There is an urgent
need to establish a national system for routine monitoring of ex-prisoner
mortality and to continue the duty of care beyond the prison walls for this
In an accompanying
Editor's Choice, MJA
Editor Dr Annette Katelaris cited research showing
that there are an estimated 50,000 prisoners released each year and a further
385,000 ex-prisoners living in the community. Therefore, ex-prisoner health had
significant repercussions for the health system.
"As Kinner and
colleagues discuss, there are evidence-based programs available that may reduce
drug-related deaths, yet they are not being widely implemented," Dr Katelaris
from non-drug-related causes is more complex. Interventions that target mental
illness, chronic disease and injury prevention will be required as part of the
smooth the reintegration of prisoners into society are urgently required."
Journal of Australia
is a publication of the Australian Medical