About No Bars Criminal Justice Services Contact No Bars

Prisoners and their problems do not fall from the sky. They come from families, they live in neighbourhoods and they belong to communities.

Prof. Tony Vinson, 19991

NO BARS - Supporting drug and alcohol services to work with criminal justice clients

Drug use ... prison ...

... drug use ... back to prison

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Many people with drug and alcohol issues come in contact with prisons, courts or other parts of the criminal justice system. The No Bars Project is an educational and information resource designed to help drug and alcohol services in their work with people who have become involved with the criminal justice system. It explains how this cycle of relapse and reoffending can occur and how drug and alcohol services can work towards supporting individuals to break the cycle.

Drug and Alcohol Services Make a Difference

By giving ex-prisoners a chance to access and gain treatment, services can make a huge difference. Offending behaviour, or a stint in prison, shouldn't be the only factor considered when assessing the drug and alcohol treatment needs of people in contact with the criminal justice system. A drug and alcohol free lifestyle provides the stability necessary for people to address the other issues of structural and personal disadvantage. This is fundamental to the process of addressing offending behaviour.

Early Action is Critical

  • The first 72 hours after leaving prison is the danger time for overdose. People often don't realise how their tolerance has dropped so they can fatally overdose on amounts they formerly would have handled.
  • The first two weeks after leaving prison is the critical period for relapsing into drug and alcohol use. This can quickly lead to reoffending (e.g. petty theft, arrest for drunken behaviour) and a return to the criminal justice system.
  • The first three months are critical for transitioning back to living in the community. In this period, a key issue is finding accommodation as this provides a base from which people can get work, start to deal with their drug and alcohol issues and reconnect with society. For ex-prisoners, the transition back to society can be even harder than serving time in prison.

Drug and alcohol services can help to stop people from falling into these situations by providing immediate and ongoing access to programs and support.

No Bars Supports Drug and Alcohol Services by:

  • Providing the No Bars website - www.nobars.org.au - a one stop shop for services about working with criminal justice clients and the criminal justice system.
  • Answering common questions about criminal justice clients.
  • Explaining the criminal justice system.
  • Offering free training to NADA Members on working with criminal justice clients.
  • Publicising the social disadvantage experienced by most criminal justice clients with drug and alcohol issues.
  • If you'd like more information on No Bars feel free to contact us.


A selection of the references used in No Bars along with other related publications can be found on the Research And Publications page.

  1. Vinson, T. (1999). Unequal in Life, Select Committee.

There are over 10,000 people in jail in NSW on any given day.

Approximately 80% of prisoners connect their AOD dependence to their offending behaviour and imprisonment.

60 - 80% of this group were intoxicated at the time of committing their offence.