Now in its 12th year and held in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, on 20-22 June, the Reintegration Puzzle Conference, themed ‘Disability and Incarceration: Multiple Disadvantage and the Need for Individualised Support’ was a great success! http://rpc.conferenceworks.com.au/
Many thanks to Deakin University and the conference organising committee, excellent discussion was had over the three days on very important issues.
I facilitated a workshop on ‘Peer Mentoring: Learnings from the UK, Republic of Ireland, Sweden and USA Models’ on Monday 20th June and then on June 21st facilitated a Plenary Panel discussion on ‘Learning from Former Prisoners Who Have Gone Straight…It Makes Sense’.
The Peer Mentoring workshop saw participants from across the country and globe reinforced in their commitment to incorporate peer mentoring in the criminal justice system in Australia; and build a network of like-minded agencies to help lead and advocate for this much needed aspect of reform.
The Panel was held at the end of the day on Tuesday 21st June, and encompassed the following members: Arthur Bolkas (Criminologist, Freelance writer/speaker, Program Manager, Bridge of Hope Foundation), Glenn Broome (Specialist Family Liaison Worker, VACRO), Julie Dempsey (Consumer Consultant, Forensicare), Shaymaa Elkadi (General Manager, Offending Behaviour Programs, Corrections Victoria) and Dr Bronwyn Naylor (Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Monash University).
My opening comment; “Time to listen to those with lived experience, Debbie Kilroy, CEO, ‘Sister’s Inside’ tweeted during my pre Churchill Fellowship trip presentation at last year’s Reintegration Puzzle conference”, set the scene. I then touched on some key findings from my Churchill Fellowship research and recommendations.
Julie Dempsey followed, speaking from the mental health consumer perspective. Espousing why we need peer mentoring for people in prison as is common in the mental health sector; and urging the development of a similar peak body to VMIAC, the peak Victorian non-government organisation for people with lived experience of mental health or emotional issues, for those in the prison system.
As I found during my Churchill Fellowship the instant & lifetime consequences of a criminal record continue to hamper people in their ability to contribute to society & support their families even as returned citizens, and how countries like the UK and US have commenced significant reform through ‘Ban the Box’ campaigns. Dr Bronwyn Naylor has undertaken valuable research in this area and spoke to the audience about the progress made by other countries and the next steps required by Australia to follow similar reform.
Arthur Bolkas and Glenn Broome spoke from the heart, stole the show and had the audience riveted, as here were two people with significant lived and professional experience, insight and advice to impart. Arthur and Glenn left an indelible view with the audience that learning from former prisoners who have gone straight does make sense and vitally needed in the Australian criminal justice system.
Shaymaa Elkadi rounded the panel discussion with a very positive forward-looking Corrections Victoria perspective, supporting a range of innovative, evidenced based rehabilitation and reintegration programs.
I concluded the session with a parting statement for the audience. Believe in reformation and celebrate your success stories.