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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Complex health-related needs among young, soon-to-be-released prisoners

Kate van Dooren1*, Alun Richards2, Nick Lennox1 and Stuart A Kinner3456

Author Affiliations

1 Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

2 Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections, Queensland Department of Health, Brisbane, Australia

3 Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics, Melbourne School of Population Health The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

4 School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

5 School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

6 Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia

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Health and Justice 2013, 1:1  doi:10.1186/2194-7899-1-1

Published: 24 October 2013



To estimate the prevalence and co-occurrence of health-related needs among young people aged 18 to 24 years transitioning out of adult prisons.


Data came from face-to-face, confidential interviews with adult prisoners aged 18–24 years in seven adult prisons in Queensland, Australia. We identified the prevalence and co-occurrence of overlapping health-related needs using an Australian health performance framework with four domains: physical health, mental health, risky substance use and socioeconomic disadvantage.


Most young prisoners experience multiple and complex health problems prior to their release: 98% of young prisoners reported at least one indicator of poor health, and 30% reported at least one indicator of poor health in all four evaluated domains.


Young people in adult prisons report a high prevalence of health problems across multiple domains. Addressing these complex needs will require coordinated service delivery across health-related sectors both in custody and after release.

Prisoners; Young adult; Risk-taking; Morbidity; Illicit drugs