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released: 3 Jun 2010 author: AIHW media release

The health of Australia's prisoners 2009 is the culmination of several years' development of national indicators in relation to prisoner health in Australia. This first national report shows that prisoners in Australia have poor health compared to the general community. A week-long snapshot of prison entrants in Australia during 2009 showed: 25% had a chronic condition (such as asthma, cardiovascular disease or diabetes); 81% were current smokers; 52% consumed alcohol at risky levels; and 71% had used illicit drugs during the previous 12 months; 37% of prison entrants reported having received a mental health diagnosis at some time, 43% had received a head injury resulting in a loss of consciousness, and 31% had been referred to prison mental health services. The report also contains data relating to communicable diseases, educational attainment, deaths in custody, the use of health services and the types of medications used by prisoners.

ISBN 978-1-74249-011-3; Cat. no. PHE 123; 168pp.; Internet only

Full publication

Publication table of contents

  • Preliminary material (90KB PDF)
    • Title and verso pages
    • Foreword
    • Contents
    • Acknowledgments
    • Symbols
    • Summary
      • Social determinants
      • Health conditions and risk behaviours
      • Health service use
      • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners
      • Deaths in custody
      • Conclusions
  • Body section
    • Snapshot of the health of Australia's prisoners
      1. Introduction (194KB PDF)
        • 1.1 Background
        • 1.2 Prisoner health services in Australia
          • New South Wales
          • Victoria
          • Queensland
          • Western Australia
          • Tasmania
          • Australian Capital Territory
          • Northern Territory
        • 1.3 Key policy directions
          • Commonwealth
          • New South Wales
          • Victoria
          • Queensland
          • Western Australia
          • Tasmania
          • Australian Capital Territory
          • Northern Territory
        • 1.4 National Prisoner Health Census methodology
          • Correctional centres
          • Prisoners
          • Health service contact
          • Census forms
          • Supplementary electronic data
          • Ethics
          • Jurisdictional comparisons, community comparison and international comparison
        • 1.5 Report structure
      2. Overview (232KB PDF)
        • 2.1 Prison health related environment
          • Tobacco smoking in prisons
          • Mental health
          • Injecting equipment
          • Dependent children
          • Condom availability
        • 2.2 Australia's prisoners
        • 2.3 Prison entrants
          • Detention history
          • Education level
      3. Health conditions (293KB PDF)
        • 3.1 Mental health
          • Mental health disorders and current medication
          • Psychological distress
          • Distress related to current incarceration
          • Self-harm
        • 3.2 Head injury
        • 3.3 Communicable diseases
          • Hepatitis C
          • Hepatitis B
          • HIV
        • 3.4 Chronic conditions
          • Asthma
          • Arthritis
          • Cardiovascular disease
          • Diabetes
          • Cancer
        • 3.5 Women's health
          • Pregnancies
          • Cervical screening
      4. Deaths (142KB PDF)
        • 4.1 Deaths in custody
        • 4.2 Deaths following release from prison
      5. Health behaviours (209KB PDF)
        • 5.1 Tobacco smoking
        • 5.2 Risky alcohol use
        • 5.3 Illicit drug use
          • Injecting drugs
        • 5.4 Unprotected sex
        • 5.5 Health service use
          • Use of health services
          • Non-use of health services when needed and reasons
      6. Prison health services (295KB PDF)
        • 6.1 Visits by Aboriginal community controlled health organisations
        • 6.2 Referrals to prison mental health services
        • 6.3 Identification of suicide or self-harm risk
        • 6.4 Transfers from prison clinic to public hospitals
        • 6.5 Immunisation
        • 6.6 Discharge planning
        • 6.7 Use of prison clinic
          • Initiator of clinic visits
          • Type of health professional seen in clinic visits
        • 6.8 Problems managed in prison clinics
        • 6.9 Opioid pharmacotherapy treatment
        • 6.10 Medication
          • Mental health related medication
        • 6.11 Medication for hepatitis C
        • 6.12 Full-time equivalent staffing ratios
      7. Comparisons with the general community and prisoners internationally (293KB PDF)
        • 7.1 Education
        • 7.2 Mental health
        • 7.3 Head injuries
        • 7.4 Communicable disease
        • 7.5 Chronic conditions
        • 7.6 Women's health
        • 7.7 Deaths in custody
        • 7.8 Tobacco smoking
        • 7.9 Risky alcohol consumption
        • 7.10 Illicit drug use
        • 7.11 Health service use
        • 7.12 Immunisations
      8. Data gaps and future directions (56KB PDF)
        • 8.1 Missing information and unavailable data
        • 8.2 Data mapping
        • 8.3 Indicators not included in this report
        • 8.4 Indicators requiring redevelopment
        • 8.5 Future directions for the Census
  • End matter
    • Appendixes
      1. List of indicators (49KB PDF)
      2. Data sources (46KB PDF)
        • National Prisoner Health Census (AIHW)
        • NPEBBV&RBS
        • Prisoners in Australia (ABS)
        • Deaths in Custody in Australia (AIC)
        • National Health Survey (ABS)
        • National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (ABS)
        • National Drug Strategy Household Survey (AIHW)
        • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey(ABS)
        • Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) General practice activity in Australia (AIHW)
        • Cervical screening in Australia 2006–07
        • Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities 2004 (USA)
        • Prisoner Health Survey 2005 (New Zealand)
      3. Prisoner health legislation in Australia (50KB PDF)
        • New South Wales
        • Victoria
        • Queensland
        • Western Australia
        • Tasmania
        • Australian Capital Territory
        • Northern Territory
      4. Prisons in Australia (50KB PDF)
        • New South Wales
        • Victoria
        • Queensland
        • Western Australia
        • South Australia
        • Tasmania
        • Australian Capital Territory
        • Northern Territory
      5. Prisoner health census forms (1.6MB PDF)
        • National Prisoner Health Census-Trial Census 2009
          • Prison Entrants Form
          • Clinic Form
          • Prisoners in Custody-Repeat Medications
          • Prison Establishment Form
      6. South Australia (43KB PDF)1
        • Prisoner health services
        • Key policy directions
    • Abbreviations (115KB PDF)
    • Glossary
    • References
    • List of tables
    • List of figures

Notes and corrections

The current version of the publication is presented above.

Previous versions of files that have been updated or corrected are presented below.

  1. [7 July 2010] Information from South Australia regarding the operation of prison health services and key policy directions in that jurisdiction has been provided after publication of this report. This information is available as an additional appendix (Appendix 6) to the online version of the report.
  2. Of all medications taken by prisoners, 31% were for mental health related issues. These medications were taken by 21% of prisoners. The summary has been updated to clarify this difference. (19 October 2010)

Recommended citation

AIHW 2010. The health of Australia's prisoners 2009. Cat. no. PHE 123. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 24 November 2014 <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442468371>.