Improving the evidence base for services working with people who are at high risk of re-offending after release from prison

February 2020

Ms Daisy Gibbs
Dr Sarah Larney
Dr Sara Farnbach
Professor Anthony Shakeshaft

Project description: 

In 2018, the number of people in Australian prisons increased for the seventh consecutive year (Statistics 2018). A 2018 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW) estimated that most (73%) prison entrants had previously been incarcerated, and that almost half (45%) had been incarcerated within the previous 12 months (AIHW 2019).

People who have been released from prison are often at their most vulnerable at this time (Baldry, McDonnell et al. 2006, AIHW 2019), and the high rates of re-offending among people released from custody indicate poor reintegration into the community for many individuals (Baldry, McDonnell et al. 2006, Payne 2007). As such, there is a need to identify and develop post-release programs that can produce positive outcomes for people released from custody (Seiter and Kadela 2003, Wright, Zhang et al. 2013, Growns, Kinner et al. 2016). People who are released from custody are at a higher risk of homelessness than the general population (Borzycki and Baldry 2003, Avery and Kinner 2015), with more than half (54%) of prison discharges expected to be homeless on release from prison in 2018 (AIHW 2019). Furthermore, as residential instability or homelessness are linked to higher rates of recidivism (Lutze, Rosky et al. 2013, Steiner, Makarios et al. 2015, Growns, Kinner et al. 2016), securing accommodation is one of the most significant challenges facing people following discharge (Roman and Travis 2006, Lutze, Rosky et al. 2013, Growns, Kinner et al. 2016).

A 2016 systematic review of evaluations of post-release supported accommodation found that studies were frequently methodologically flawed, and few consistent findings were evident, with regards to either effectiveness of programs in reducing recidivism, or program characteristics associated with positive participant outcomes (Growns, Kinner et al. 2016).

There is increasing demand within the field of criminal justice for more rigorous research and evaluation of interventions (Wright, Zhang et al. 2013). Demonstrating the impact of interventions is critical in developing evidence-based programs that can produce tangible criminal justice, health and social outcomes for individuals (Growns, Kinner et al. 2016).

The aim of the proposed study is to develop an evidence base for services targeting men who are at high risk of reoffending following release from prison in Australia. Specifically, the aims of each study are to:

  1. Identify evaluations of programs that aim to improve outcomes of people released from prison; describe the effectiveness of programs; and identify program components that are common across effective programs to facilitate establishment of a best-evidence model of care;
  2. Develop a best-evidence, standardised and adaptable program framework to be applied across services working with men released from prison;
  3. Evaluate the feasibility of implementing routine data collection processes in an existing program, and explore opportunities to use such data for quality improvement purposes; and
  4. Describe health and criminal justice impacts of a supported accommodation service for men released from prison.


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