Improving post-release employment outcomes for people leaving prison

Engaging in meaningful work has been shown to reduce re-offending by ex-prisoners. However, few prison releasees in Australia or internationally gain employment, and successful pathways to employment for this group are poorly researched and understood.

This study will gather and analyse comparative data from Australian jurisdictions and employment agencies on the relationship between in-prison and post-prison vocational education and employment programs, employment and recidivism. It will identify effective elements, strategies, program and policy directions in offender training and employment.

This unique partnership brings together key academics in the field, peak national bodies, correctional and employment organisations. A Future Beyond the Wall is a three-year project funded under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects scheme.

A Future Beyond the Wall aims to:

  • Understand the models, practices, performance and outcomes of vocational education and employment services.
  • Provide insights into the extent to which successful completion of training and/or employment programs is related to positive employment and recidivism outcomes.
  • Develop a theoretical framework and practice models that are useful and appropriate to the development of future effective services.

The project will examine how services can best promote ex-prisoners’ social and economic participation in order to help them reduce reoffending, maximise their potential and achieve positive, healthy lifetime outcomes.

The project was conducted in three key stages over three-years.

Stage 1 (2015)

The development of a national ‘map’ of government and non-government vocational education and employment service provision for prisoners pre- and post-release in all Australian jurisdictions. As part of this process, Corrections, in prison vocational education providers, Correctional industries and relevant employment agencies in each jurisdiction will be surveyed regarding the type, size and nature of programs they run.

Stage 2 (2015-2016)

An analysis of in-prison and post-prison training and employment services for prisoners and ex-prisoners. This stage of the research comprises of:

  1. A ‘recidivism study’ involving the collection and analysis of relevant de-identified data on all sentenced individuals released in 2009, 2010 or 2011.
  2. Interviews with staff and ex-prisoners from the project’s partner organisations, and other organisations who have agreed to participate.
  3. The development of a number of case studies from relevant participating organisations.
  4. The creation of two nested studies that will address specific issues, program approaches, and outcomes for two groups involved in the criminal justice system: Indigenous Australians, and those with an identified mental and/or cognitive disorder.

Stage 3 (2015-2017)

Throughout the project, the research team will have regular meetings to discuss the explanatory power of various theoretical positions, and their applicability to the findings as they arise. From these discussions a theoretical framework and approach to vocational and employment programs for offenders based on the project’s findings will be developed.

  1. ‘Adult Prisoner Participation in Education, Training and Employment in Australia, 2008-15’ (2016) ISBN: 978-0-9873593-3-9 Download here
  2. Graffam J, Giles M, Ollerton J, Newton D, Baldry E, Yeo E & Crosbie J (2017) Improving post-release employment outcomes for people leaving prison: Results from a national survey of employment services, Sydney: UNSW Sydney,
  3. Dowse L, Rowe S, McGillivray J & Newton D (2017) Education, Training and Employment for Prisoners with Cognitive Disabilities: A Case Study, Sydney: UNSW Sydney,
  4. Wodak J & Day A (2017) Sentenced to a Job: A Case Study, Sydney: UNSW Sydney,
  5. Hardcastle L, Dowse L, McGillivray J, Newton D, Rowe S, Crosbie J (2018) A qualitative study on the experiences of ex-prisoners who are seeking employment, the experiences of practitioners who work with ex-prisoners who are seeking employment and the models of practice used. Sydney: UNSW Sydney, 
  6. Baldry E, Bright D, Cale J, Day A, Dowse L, Giles M, Hardcaslte L, Graffam J, McGillivray J, Newton D, Rowe S, Wodak J (2018) A Future Beyond the Wall: Improving Post-release Employment Outcomes for People Leaving Prison: Final Report. Sydney: UNSW Sydney,

Contact us

For further information about the project, please contact the Lead Chief Investigator, EIlieen Baldry, at


Lead Chief Investigator

  • Professor Eileen Baldry, UNSW School of Social Sciences

UNSW Chief Investigators

  • Dr Jesse Cale
  • Associate Professor Leanne Dowse

Flinders chief investigator

Deakin chief Investigators

Edith Cowan Chief Investigator

James Cook Chief Investigator

Partner investigators

Other Correctional Services and government agencies are data partners with the project.

Organisational units