A new survey of inmates offers fresh insight into the demographics and risk behaviors of detainees in New South Wales prisons. Among key findings:
- The average prisoner was male, age 35, and an English speaker.
- Indigenous people were disproportionately represented among inmates.
- Only one of 996 inmates surveyed was HIV-positive. Five others erroneously believed they were infected.
- One in three inmates was positive for hepatitis C; one in four was positive for hepatitis B.
- One in three prisoners had used drugs while incarcerated; half said it was "easy" to acquire drugs in prison.
- Methamphetamine use was reported by 42 percent of prisoners.
- Three-quarters of inmates smoked, but most said they would like to quit.
- One in six detainees was aware of a sexual assault in prison in the past year.
- More than half the prisoners had suffered a serious head injury.
- About half the inmates reported having been expelled from school, were unemployed before they were incarcerated, had injected drugs, and were intoxicated when they committed their crime.
- One-third of males and 43 percent of females suffered from depression; one in five had attempted suicide at some point; and two-fifths had had no visitors in the preceding month.
Still, the latest figures evidenced improvements in prison conditions since the last survey, in 2001.
Rhonda Booby of the Department of Corrections credited the improvements to better case management and rehabilitation programs. Yet while visitor screening and canine surveillance have helped reduce the flow of drugs into prisons, widespread addiction makes further gains difficult, she said.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.