Researchers from the University of Wollongong have chosen the Lithgow, Wellington and Macquarie correctional centres in the Central West to study the aggressive behaviour of inmates.
Volunteering inmates will be given Omega-3, which is commonly found in fish and other seafood, and a placebo, a substance which has no intended therapeutic value, for 16 weeks in the form of capsules.
Professor Barbara Meyer, who will conduct the study along with Professor Mitch Byrne, says the research is to see the effect of Omega-3 supplementation on adult male prisoners' aggressive behaviour.
"This is following on from a pilot feasibility study that we did at the South Coast Correctional Centre in 2013," Professor Meyer said.
Professor Meyer said their pilot study has shown people with a low level of Omega-3 in their blood are associated with a higher level of aggressive behaviour.
"We didn't have enough participants last time to show a definitive outcome of our research," she said.
"Now we have received a grant and want to carry out the research in six correctional centres - four in NSW and two in South Australia."
Professor Meyer said they have obtained ethical approvals from all the concerned authorities and are waiting for the last approval from the Aboriginal Health Research Ethics Committee of South Australia.
Professor Meyer said there was no particular reason behind choosing Nowra, Lithgow, Wellington and Macquarie correctional centres for the project.
"Luke Grant, who is the assistant commissioner for corrective services NSW and part of the research, suggested these sites because other research work is already going on at other sites," she said.
How will they conduct the research?
Professor Meyer said they are employing a correctional service officer at each centre as a project officer for 12 months.
Project officers will go through the case notes - any incident which occurs at prison is case noted - and will convert them into a number.
Researchers have already developed a scale ranging from minus one to plus five.
Minus one is pro-social behaviour, which means the person has behaved well. Zero means no case, one is indirect aggression and five is physical aggression.
Professor Meyer said inmates with a score of one or higher will be invited to participate.
"We will be doing some pre-screening of volunteers. For instance, we will be collecting their blood samples to measure the amount of Omega-3 in their blood and also performing some muscle strength test," she said.
We will be doing some pre-screening of volunteers. For instance, we will be collecting their blood samples to measure the amount of Omega-3 in their blood and also performing some muscle strength testProfessor Barbara Meyer
"We will exclude those inmates who have a higher level of Omega-3 in their blood or have good behaviour."
Professor Meyer said the collection of blood samples is the most important part of their work as the two similar studies - one in the UK and one in the Netherlands - didn't measure the level of Omega-3 in inmates' blood.
"The previous studies showed the number of reprimands fell up to 35 per cent. Those studies didn't take blood samples. That's an improvement in our study," she said.
What's in it for the inmates?
Professor Meyer said inmates taking the Omega-3 can gain muscle mass, besides earning $70 for the research work.
"We are ideally looking for 100 inmates at each site," she said.
She said the work has already started at the South Coast Correctional Centre and they hope to begin at the other three centres in the Central West by mid this year.
Researchers will be completing their work by the end of 2021.