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Health of Australia's Prisoners 2009

NCJ Number
Date Published
169 pages
This report presents comprehensive information on the health of Australian prisoners at the time of entry to prison, their use of health services while in prison, and information on the prison environment for 2009.
Highlights of important findings from the 2009 report include: 1) of the 549 prison entrants in the census, 89 percent were male, the median age was 29 years, and 26 percent were Indigenous; 2) 37 percent of prison entrants reported having a mental health disorder at some time and 18 percent reported that they were currently taking medication for a mental health related condition; 3) 35 percent of prison entrants tested positive for hepatitis C, 21 percent tested positive for the hepatitis B antibody, and less than 1 percent tested positive for HIV; 4) 25 percent of prison entrants self-reported that they have a current chronic condition: asthma, arthritis, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, or cancer; 5) during the Census, over 6,400 prisoners visited a clinic and over 4,900 prisoners were taking prescribed medication (41 percent); 6) most primary health care in prison was provided by nurses (71 percent), with just under one-fifth (18 percent) of clinic visits being with a medical practitioner; 7) there were 141 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison entrants during Census week (26 percent of prison entrants); 8) a greater proportion of non Indigenous prisoners were taking medication; however, Indigenous prisoners were more likely to take diabetic medication than non-Indigenous prisoners (5 percent compared to 2 percent); and 9) according to the National Deaths in Custody Monitoring Program, during 2007 there were 45 deaths in prison custody, 5 of whom were Indigenous. The health of prisoners in Australia is poorer than people in the general community in a number of areas including, certain chronic conditions, communicable diseases, mental health, alcohol and drug use. This first national report provides a baseline for monitoring these indicators of the health of Australia's prisoners, to inform policymaking and service delivery. Tables, figures, appendixes, glossary, and references