Breaking the cycle: supporting people with drug use histories to avoid reincarceration

Reoffending and reincarceration among people with illicit drug use histories drives much of the social and economic burden associated with imprisonment in Australia.

Incarceration is not an effective strategy for preventing reoffending or rehabilitating prisoners, yet it is prioritised at the expense of responses that meet their complex health and social support needs of people that contribute to risk of imprisonment.

Existing sector resourcing is limited, and community services are often siloed and focus on single issues, rather than wrapping around an individual person likely to have multiple and complex needs.

See also: Time to explore decriminalisation of drug use on International Overdose Awareness Day (2022)

Post-release services which may coordinate and broker a range of responses are limited by capacity and funding constraints, and many who are at risk of reincarceration are not eligible to receive the kind of intensive support which may alter their risk profile.

Importantly, access to safe, stable and secure housing remains a critical unmet need which must underpin the design and provision of any holistic service provision if the cycle of reincarceration is to be broken.

Burnet Institute was successful in obtaining capacity building and development funding from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to engage in a collaborative process to design a holistic post-release intervention for people with histories of drug use.

Leading the project, Burnet is partnering with design firm Paper Giant, service providers and people with lived experience of incarceration and drug use to co-design an innovative, evidenced informed and needs based model.

Burnet hopes that the successful development phase will lead to future implementation and evaluation phases to generate evidence of long-term impact on health, wellbeing and re-incarceration rates among this underserved population.


Jan 2020–current


  • Windana
  • Jesuits Social Services


Paul Ramsay Foundation

Contact Details

For any general enquiries relating to this project, please contact:

Amy Kirwan

Senior Research Fellow, Social Impact and Innovation