“They breached me!”: Young men with injecting drug use histories experiences of community corrections orders following release from prison

Dr Shelley Walker1, Professor Mark  Stoove1,2, Associate Professorr Peter Higgs1,3,4, Dr Mandy Wilson3

1Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia
2Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
3La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
4National Drug Research Institute, Perth, Australia


Young men aged 18-25 years represent 17% of the Australian adult prison population, with rates of recidivism higher than for any other age group. Those with histories of injecting drugs experience an even greater risk of re-incarceration. Many are released from prison on community corrections orders (CCOs); evidence suggests up to half breach their orders – a rate that is much higher than for older people.


Twenty-eight young men with histories of injecting drugs participated in in-depth qualitative interviews after release from adult prisons in Victoria, Australia. Interviews explored participants lived experiences of drug use, incarceration, and release from prison. Interview transcripts were managed and organised using NVivo data analysis software and data were thematically analysed to represent patterns and themes across the dataset.

Key Findings

Approximately two thirds of participants were released from prison on community corrections orders (CCOs), with most breaching the requirements of these orders, and consequently being required to return to prison. Young men described a plethora of challenges adhering to orders. Most faced difficulties getting to appointments. Some were banned from neighborhoods where family and friends reside (to prevent associating with others who use drugs or are involved in criminal activities). Others were faced with the dilemma of reuniting with family/peers who provided important support, but also temptations to re-engage in drug use/crime that could lead to breaching orders and their inevitable reincarceration. A lack of transitional/post-release support to meet young men’s complex needs was a primary contributing factor for breaches.


Understanding the complex social, economic, and emotional needs of young men with injecting drug histories, as they are released from prison on CCOs, highlights the need for more intensive ongoing transitional/post-release support to help young men adhere to the requirements of these orders and support their reintegration into the community.


Shelley is and Early Career Researcher based at the Burnet Institute. She works across a number of qualitative research projects in the areas of justice health, alcohol and other drugs and international development. Shelley is passionate about human rights and social justice issues and the importance of giving voice to marginalised communities.


Dec 09 2021