The Justice Health Research Program is the most recently established program in the Kirby Institute.
For the past fifteen years, program head Professor Tony Butler has worked on a range of projects in the justice health area involving adult and juvenile prisoners, those serving community-based sentences, and ex-offenders. These groups endure some of the worst health in society and this has implications for the health of the wider community.
This work involves surveillance of blood-borne viruses and STIs in the form of the triennial National Prison Entrants' Bloodborne Virus and Risk Behaviour Survey, the conduct of several large population-based surveys of prisoners, examining mental health issues, substance use, and the development of national indicators for prisoners’ health.
More recently attention has focussed on developing interventions and examining the health antecedents of offending. One data-linkage study is examining whether traumatic brain injury (and its sequelae) has a role to play in offending behaviour, and we hope to shortly commence an intervention to treat impulsivity in repeat violent offenders. Indigenous people are disproportionately over represented in criminal justice system and form an important part of this work. An NHMRC capacity building grant in the Indigenous offender health area is helping to develop a cohort of researchers for the justice health field.
NSW is regarded as a world leader in prisoner health research. Over the years numerous researchers attached to UNSW and the Kirby Institute have been involved in the offender health area and it is hoped to capitalise on this in the form of a national/regional entity for this area within the Kirby Institute. The health and human rights component associated with this area has obvious synergies with the work of the Institute’s namesake.