A Prospective Cohort Study of Ex-Prisoners with a History of Injecting Drug Use: Examining Health Service Utilisation, Physical and Mental Health and Blood Borne Virus Trajectories

Investigators: Mark Stoove, Stuart Kinner, Tony Butler, James Ogloff, Paul Dietze, Campbell Aitken

Project type: National Health and Medical Research Council project grant scheme 2012 – 2016 ($956,020)

Rationale and aims:

  • This cohort study offers an innovative and unique opportunity to track the post-release trajectories of a large sample of prisoners in Victoria who have a history of injecting drug use.
  • Because people who inject drugs are vastly over-represented in prison populations, frequently transition in and out of prison and often experience very high levels of physical and mental health morbidities, this study will inform ways to reduce crime and the social, health and economic costs of incarceration.
  • Data linkage will allow the tracking of prisoner outcomes in key health and criminal justice areas well beyond the period of direct follow-up. The combination of these elements is considered internationally unique and innovative.


  • The study will recruit Victorian male prisoners with a history of injecting drug use in the 4-6 weeks prior to their release.
  • Follow-up of these study participants will occur three, 12 and 24 months’ post-release. At each point, participants will undertake in-depth interviews and provide blood samples to examine outcomes related to blood borne virus transmission.
  • Consent will also be sought from participants to link this information with justice and health-related databases, including LEAP, Medicare and mental health data


Kirwan, A., Quinn, B., Winter, R., et al. (2015). Correlates of property crime in a cohort of recently released prisoners with a history of injecting drug use. Harm Reduction Journal, 12:23. Doi: 10.1186/s12954-015-0057-y

Winter R, Stoové M, Degenhardt L, Hellard ME, Jenkinson R, McCarthy DR & Kinner SA (2015). Incidence and predictors of non-fatal drug overdose after release from prison among people who inject drugs in Queensland, Australia. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 153: 43–49. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.06.011

Young JT, Arnold-Reed D, Preen D, Bulsara M, Lennox N & Kinner SA (in press). Early primary care physician contact and health service utilisation in a large sample of recently released ex-prisoners in Australia: prospective cohort study. BMJ Open. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008021