Background: The rapidly growing number of people in prison in Australia, combined with the high prevalence of mental disorder in this population, results in high demand for mental health services in prison settings. Despite their critical role as part of a national mental health response, prison mental health services (PMHS) in Australia have been poorly characterised. Methods: In this presentation, I will describe findings of the first ever national survey of PMHS in Australia. We distributed a survey to key representatives of PMHS in all Australian states and territories in 2016. Our method constitutes a replicable process for quantifying and comparing PMHS in Australia. Results: I will describe the structure, governance and staffing models of PMHS in seven jurisdictions. When compared against international recommendations, we found that only one Australian jurisdiction (the ACT) was funded to provide services at a level equivalent to mental health services provided in the community. Conclusions: Prison mental health services in Australia are delivered by a complex mix of government, private sector and non-government services. Services appear to be severely under-resourced when compared with available benchmarks.
Professor Stuart Kinner is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and leads a program of research on the health of marginalised and justice-involved people. He is Head of the Justice Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, and Group Leader, Justice Health in the Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. He also holds Honorary appointments at Monash University, University of Queensland, Griffith University, University of British Columbia, and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement. Stuart is experienced in longitudinal studies, multi-sectoral data linkage, randomised controlled trials, program evaluation, policy analysis, systematic review, and meta-analysis. He has produced >200 publications and attracted >$24 million in research and consulting funds, mostly from nationally competitive schemes. Stuart Chairs Australia’s National Youth Justice Health Advisory Group, and the WHO Health in Prisons Programme Technical Expert Group. He Co-Chairs the Research Committee in the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, and co-convenes the Justice Health Special Interest Group in the Public Health Association of Australia. He serves on the Steering Committee for the Worldwide Prison Health Research & Engagement Network (WEPHREN), is a member of the WHO Steering Group on Prisons Health, and led the Health Theme in the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.
Jesse Young is Research Fellow in the Justice Health Unit. He holds Adjunct appointments in the School of Population and Global Health at The University of Western Australia and the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University. Specialising in psychiatric epidemiology and data linkage methodology, his research interests include mental health, intellectual disability, and justice health. He is an active member of the International ADHD and Substance Use Disorder Research Group and the Society for Mental Health Research.