Ex-prisoners overdosing at alarming rate
PRISONERS released from jail are dying from heroin overdoses in Victoria at alarmingly high rates, according to shocking new data.
Up to 90 of the 220 fatal overdoses in 2017 were found to be former inmates, according to new Victorian data, with the majority dying within one year of their release.
The most dangerous period is the first six days after leaving jail but the risk continues years after they complete incarceration.
The shocking trend has prompted calls for better services for parolees and freed inmates, to help reduce deaths, help people transition back into the community and reduce recidivism.
Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association Executive Officer Sam Biondo said the data from the Coroners Court of Victoria was distressing and warned the number of heroin deaths would continue to grow as the state's prison population continued to boom.
"In 2017, 90 former prisoners, amounting to more than four football teams, fatally overdosed on heroin", he said.
"If we assume that 41 per cent of Victorians fatally overdosing on heroin being former prisoners is representative, from 2010 to 2018, there would have been 580 fatalities.
"The figure is higher than the capacity of most Victorian prisons. It is an unacceptable blight on our justice system.
"It's adds to the burden of evidence that more must be done to reintegrate former prisoners, not only to reduce reoffending but also to save lives."
Half of the former prisoners who died from opioids in 2017 did so within 12 months of release.
Alarmingly, 16 died within the first 30 days.
Mr Biondo called for better services to help former inmates and said support needed to "continue well beyond the prison gate".
Once case referenced by the Coroners Court included a man found unconscious on the road in North Richmond in 2017 who was rushed to hospital but could not be saved.
The case was the final straw for Coroner Jacqui Hawkins and the Coroners Prevention Unit who are now reaching out to agencies to find new ways to tackle the epidemic and reduce drug related harms among former inmates.
The news comes amid rising tension in the Richmond community around the controversial safe injecting room.