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Caring For The Incarcerated: Lessons From The Past, Policy For The Future

The Project

Caring for the Incarcerated_About Main PhotoThe number of people (including youth) in NSW prisons is at an historic high at more than 12000 prisoners. People have been incarcerated since 1788 in Australia.  It also has one of the oldest penal health services.

This project specifically looks at historical drivers for change in the delivery of health care for those in prison. Healthcare needs and the delivery in the prison system has changed over time due to societal attitudes and political forces. Little research has been done however, to understand the relationship between health care delivery and public policy and the health outcome for prisoners. Equally significant, is the connection between prison health services and public health systems.

This research aims to unveil how historical forces come into play in today’s delivery of health care within the prison system. A better appreciation of medical and health policy history will help inform current practice and future needs. The impact of this research will have a direct result on the inmates themselves, along with their families and the community upon release.

In consultation with Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, this project will map key events, people and philosophies over time which have contributed to the development of health services in prisons. It will focus specifically on the philosophy of service delivery to this population and how it has informed policy and models of care. Key findings will help empower health service planners to implement a sustainable and appropriate model of health care for people in custody in NSW. 

Prisons will always contain some of the most disadvantaged and unhealthy people in a society reflects Dr Stephen Hampton, Executive Medical Director, Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network. "I see this project as a great opportunity to reflect on the history of the provision of health care to people in custody in NSW, with the objective of identifying factors which have influenced that provision. It should result in presenting strategies for improving the health of this needy group of individuals" he said.

The Researchers

Caring for the Incarcerated_Research Main PhotoThis project brings together researchers from Science, Medicine and Health and Law, Humanities and the Arts and the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network.  The team includes two historians, a public health specialist, a criminologist, a creative writer and Indigenous studies specialist, a law HDR students. It also has several external partners which include medical doctors, a museum manager, and creative writing director.

Associate Professor Louella McCarthy is is a humanities scholar located in the Graduate School of Medicine, with particular responsibility for Academic Community Engagement and Medical Humanities. The Caring for the Incarcerated project spans Louella research interests of engagement theory and practice, medical history and heritage, gender history, and social justice and health inequalities. She has a PhD in the history of medicine; an engagement specialist with museum and public history expertise. Louella is part of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at UOW.

Dr Kathryn Weston is a senior lecturer in Public Health in the Graduate School of Medicine within the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at UOW. She has significant professional experience in public health, outbreak management, and control and prevention of infectious diseases, as well as a research profile in community-based medical education. Her academic interests and pursuits also include research ethics, medical humanities, health literacy and health care planning for chronic disease.  

Dr Jane Carey is a lecturer in history in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at UOW. Jane’s research ranges widely across histories of race, gender and science in British settler societies from the nineteenth century into the recent past. She has particular interests in ‘whiteness’, settler colonialism, biopolitics and the history of eugenics, all of which provide wider context for this project. She brings particular expertise in Australian Indigenous history.

Dr Natalia Hanley, PhD, Criminologist, expertise in (lack of) mental health services in prisons.

Aunty Barbara Nicholson, Honorary Doctor of Laws, Wadi Wadi Elder.  She is also a Member of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee and is the Project Coordinator writing workshops with Indigenous inmates at Junee Correctional Centre (with South Coast Writers Centre).

Fabienne Else– PhD student UOW Law School; thesis topic ‘Indigenous Offender and Community Experiences of New Intensive Correction Orders.  Fabienne will assist with research on Indigenous prisoners’ health.

External partners:

Dr Stephen Hampton trained as a general practitioner and completed a Master of Public Health and is the Executive Medical Director, Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network. He is a specialist in prison medical services and their governance; Extensive connections throughout the prison medical service both current and past personnel. He has worked in various locations, this includes as a District Medical Officer in Tenant Creek (in the Northern Territory) and as a partner in a southern Sydney General Practice. He has worked in the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network for 8 years in several positions including Clinical Director for Primary and Women’s Health and now Executive Medical Director. He was the inaugural Chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Specific Interest Group in Custodial Health. He is interested in Undergraduate and Postgraduate Medical Education, and Systems Improvement within the custodial setting.

Dr Tobias Mackinnon, MBBS, State-wide Clinical Director Forensic Mental Health, Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network

Andrew Weglarz, State Wide Museum Manager, Corrective Services

Friederike Krishnabhakdi-Vasilakis, Director, South Coast Writers Centre

Isobelle Barrett Meyering, PhD in History (under examination); extensive experience in archival and library research and scholarly writing.

Last reviewed: 4 September, 2018