Prisons Project

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Prisons Project

The Australian prison population is increasingly composed of a growing number of older people, many of whom experience poorer general health and high rates of chronic illness, resulting in accelerated ageing. Between 2009-19, the proportion of older Australians in prisons (aged over 45 years) grew by more than 78% from 5366 to 9578 people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in our prisons. Impacts since colonisation including dispossession of traditional lands and cultures, systemic bias, social exclusion, racism and intergenerational trauma have produced risks for higher incarceration rates.

Incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience high levels of trauma and psychological distress, and have limited access to and uptake of, mainstream health services within the prison system. People in prison are increasingly requiring more intensive, specialised, and costly healthcare, including palliative and end of life care. The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for people with life-limiting illnesses and their family members through a holistic approach that focuses on patient-centred evidence-based care and availability of choice.

There are a number of challenges that impact on the provision of palliative care in our prisons, including: providing care within a punitive custodial environment; limited capacity to provide adequate pain management; and suitability of prison environments for older people with limited mobility and/or those with disabilities. While various reports have raised concerns about care for ageing and elderly people in prison, little is known about the capacity of Australian prisons to provide palliative care.

The aim of the Project is to improve access to best evidence-based, culturally safe, high-quality palliative and end-of-life care for people in prisons, through the collaborative co-design of a new National Framework for the Provision of Palliative Care in Australian Prisons.