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Jesuit criticises inadequate response to prisoner health needs

Fr Peter Norden of Jesuit Social Services has commented on a study that reveals that Victoria's prison system is ill-equipped to cope with the health needs of prisoners.

The Victorian Prisoner Health Study, released on Friday, says the prevalence of Hepatitis C among the prison population is 57.5%, compared with an estimated one per cent for the overall Australian population.

Fr Norden, who also convenes the Victorian Criminal Justice Coalition, said the findings raise serious questions about the use of the criminal justice system to deal with serious, pre-existing health problems in our community.

He said: "A more effective use of the community's scarce resources would be to respond to the health needs of vulnerable citizens as they occur rather than increasing the amount of money year by year in incarcerating the mentally ill and those with serious health needs."

Fr Norden said the report confirms findings of recent research completed by Jesuit Social Services that found that, in the last decade, while expenditure on prisons had increased by 138%, expenditure of mental health in the wider community increased by only 88%".

Prison health survey report released with dramatic findings (Jesuit Social Services 14/5/04)

Hep C rife in Victorian jails (The Age 15/5/04)
Victoria prisons 'incubate' hepatitis C (ABC 15/5/04)
Hep C rife in Victorian jails (AAP/ninemsn 15/5/04)
Jesuit Social Services
Department of Justice - Victoria

17 May 2004