Case study 2: the HPLS prisons project

The strong links between
homelessness, leaving prison, mental illness and substance abuse have been
highlighted by an analysis of the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) Solicitor
Advocate’s casework for the past two years.

Between 1 January 2010
and 31 December 2011, the Solicitor Advocate assisted 179 clients. Of these

  • 45% disclosed they
    had a mental illness;
  • 60% disclosed they
    had drug or alcohol dependency;?
  • 69% had either a
    mental illness or dug/alcohol dependency;?
  • 35% had both a mental
    illness and a drug/alcohol dependency;?
  • 45% disclosed they had
    previously been in prison.

These results support
the findings of previous research into the prevalence of mental illness,
alcohol and drug issues, and other complex needs among the homeless population.

The results also support
earlier findings of strong links between offending, re-offending, incarceration
and homelessness.

In 2011, HPLS
recommended to the NSW Sentencing Council and the NSW Law Reform Commission
that suspended
sentences should be maintained
as a
sentencing option. HPLS also recommended that intermediate sentencing options be
expanded, particularly options that have therapeutic and remedial outcomes.

Doing so would help keep
homeless people out of the prison system; it would also contribute to breaking
the cycle between prison and homelessness.

HPLS will release further
information about its prisons research project in mid-2013.

Photo: Flickr

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