The Sexual Health and Attitudes of Australian Prisoners

June 2017

Ms Jocelyn Jones
Dr Mandy Wilson

Other investigators: 

Professor Tony Butler, Kirby Institute, UNSW (Lead Investigator)
Professor Basil Donovan,  Kirby Institute, UNSW
Professor Juliet Richters, University of New South Wales
Dr Paul Simpson, Kirby Institute, UNSW
Associate Professor Nicole Asquith, Western Sydney University
Dr Lorraine Yap, Kirby Institute, UNSW
Dr Azar Kariminia, Kirby Institute, UNSW

Project description: 

The 2007 Sexual Health and Attitudes of Australian Prisoners study (SHAAP-1) represented the largest and most comprehensive population-based survey to examine prisoners’ sexual health, attitudes and behaviours in Australia. It was a first-in-world study that successfully used a computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) to survey prisoners. It collected data on over 2,000 men and women prisoners from New South Wales and Queensland, achieving a response rate of 80%. It has had a major impact on policy and practice locally and internationally, influencing United Nations and World Health Organization guidelines, the introduction of condoms in California prisons, identifying new public health threats, and drawing attention to sexual violence in prisons.

In the ten years since SHAAP-1, changes have occurred in the sexual health and attitudes of the general population, prisoner population demographics have changed, and correctional facility operations have altered, including the introduction of smoking bans and a trend towards private prisons. This necessitates updating the evidence-base generated by SHAAP-1. In addition to describing the impact of these on prisoners’ sexual health, attitudes and behaviours, this NHMRC-funded survey will enhance SHAAP-1 by incorporating a longitudinal component and examining the sexual health and safety of vulnerable prisoner subgroups including Indigenous women, those with histories of childhood sexual assault and sexual and gender minorities. Additionally, the survey will expand coverage to include Western Australia which has the highest imprisonment rate of Indigenous people in Australia, and determine HPV vaccination rates among prisoners. SHAAP-2 will address important knowledge gaps in the sexual lives of prisoners while in custody and in the community to inform evidence-based policy responses both locally and internationally.