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Reconsidering Post-Release Risk. Diana Johns PhD, Australian Prisons Project ( My PhD Research. ‘Getting out, Fitting in, Getting on - The Culture of Prison Release: Post-release theory, practice and lived experience in Victoria.’ A ‘culture of prison release’

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Reconsidering post release risk

Reconsidering Post-Release Risk

Diana Johns

PhD, Australian Prisons Project


My phd research
My PhD Research

  • ‘Getting out, Fitting in, Getting on - The Culture of Prison Release: Post-release theory, practice and lived experience in Victoria.’

  • A ‘culture of prison release’

  • Adult men released from prison in Victoria

  • 30 face-to-face, semi-structured interviews

  • Attending to the subjective experience allows different understanding of post-release risk

Imprisonment in victoria 2008 09
Imprisonment in Victoria, 2008-09

  • Daily average of 4,042 men in prison;

  • 51% imprisoned before;

  • 5,051 receptions of 4,542 individual men, i.e. 509 returns to custody;

  • 3,150 men received (62%) were unsentenced;

  • 4,939 discharges of male prisoners (D of J, 2009)

  • 1,534 released on parole (Adult Parole Board, 2009)

  • Around 3,000 men on straight release.

The cycle of imprisonment risky populations risky systems
The cycle of imprisonment…Risky populations, risky systems

  • A ‘risky population to be efficiently and prudently managed’ (Hannah-Moffat, 2005: 30)

  • ‘Risky systems’ (Halsey, 2007)

  • Aspects emerging from interviews with released prisoners and post-release support workers:

    • homelessness

    • drug use

    • post-prison culture

    • paradox of parole


  • Age 35, 17 years in and out of prison, ‘it’s like a merry-go-round’:

  • I was out two days, then I was out five days, you know, ’cause I had nowhere to go, so I just got out, got stoned off my head, done a burg, got pinched, went back to jail for another year and a half or two. Got out, nowhere to live again, got pilled off my head, done another burg, got pinched, done another year or two…

Risks of homelessness
Risks of homelessness

  • Limited post-release housing options

  • Transitional housing scarce, competition high

  • Public housing waiting lists long

  • Private rental market inaccessible

  • A room in a boarding house

  • ‘Those that do go into boarding houses are more likely to reoffend…’ [Link Out worker]

Straight release nowhere to go
Straight release, nowhere to go…

  • When you get out on a straight release you got no support, like if you got nowhere to go, it doesn’t matter mate, it’s out the door, bad luck...You got nowhere to live? Oh, here y’are, I can give you three days in a hotel… [‘Scott’]

  • I was telling them I had nowhere and still all they did was get me a hotel for the first two days I was out… [‘Ben’]

Post prison cycles
Post-prison cycles

  • I’d come out and I’d just have no-one, nothing to do, and I’d go nuts, I’d go stir crazy … Sure enough after months or a year or whatever it just got too lonely and too boring and I’d go back to that life to find friendship and someone to talk to and something to do, and sure enough, before I know it I’m in jail again. [‘John’]

Breaking the cycle
Breaking the cycle

  • ‘Scott’ was released on parole this time

    • Somewhere to live

    • Link Out program

  • Out nine months, longest time ever

    • Family support, his own place

    • Managing drug use, not robbing

    • A sense of responsibility:

    • ‘I don’t want to die man and leave me bubbas with no uncle’