Each year up to a quarter of all young Aboriginal men have direct involvement with correctional services, and Aboriginal prisoners currently represent 22% of the total Australian prisoner population.
The high rates of repeated short-term incarceration experienced by Aboriginal people in Australia have a multitude of negative health effects for Aboriginal communities and the wider society, while achieving little in terms of increased community safety.
Well identified health and social priorities for Aboriginal people affected by incarceration include housing and tenancy support; mental health and wellbeing, including family violence, grief and loss support; substance misuse support; general health services, including hepatitis C management; and social inclusion, including the need for family and community integration, skills development and employment.
The post-release period is a crucial time for the provision of integrated health and social services to address these priorities and to break the cycle of incarceration.
To achieve significant health gains for Aboriginal people, there is a need to develop a broader collaborative approach to primary health care, incorporating social health and justice perspectives as fundamental components of health care planning.
Health and human services have a critical role to play in developing community-based solutions to reduce excessive incarceration rates for Aboriginal people.
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