Comparison of social circumstances, substance use and substance-related harm in soon-to-be-released prisoners with and without intellectual disability




A.Bhandari, K. van Dooren, G. Eastgate, N. Lennox and S. A. Kinner

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research

August 29, 2014






The transition out of prison is likely to be a challenging time for prisoners with intellectual disability (ID). However, little evidence exists to inform interventions for people with ID making this transition. In this study we aimed to describe social circumstances, patterns of substance use and substance-related harm in soon-to-be-released prisoners with ID. We compare this group with those without ID, to better understand how the health-related needs of this group compare with the ‘mainstream’ prison population.



Data came from face-to-face, confidential interviews with 1325 adult prisoners in seven adult prisons in Queensland, Australia. Prisoners with ID were identified using the Hayes Ability Screening Index (HASI). We used cross-sectional data to examine (i) demographics and criminographics; (ii) social circumstances; and (iii) substance use and substance use related harm. We compared characteristics of those with and without ID using univariable logistic regression.



Prisoners with ID (n = 115) were more likely than their peers without ID to be male, to identify as Indigenous Australian, and to report low educational attainment (<10 years) and pre-incarceration unemployment. Those with ID reported a high prevalence of poly-drug use (28.0%), unsafe tattooing (51.1%), unsafe sex (91.0%) and HCV infection (55.6%), although differences with their peers were non-significant.



The health and social needs of prisoners with ID transitioning into the community are a significant concern for researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Our findings highlight the need for proactive, appropriate and targeted service responses from disability, health and justice sectors.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee