Changing Systems from the Inside Out: a most successful Reintegration Puzzle Conference, Sydney, 21st – 23rd June 2017
Building on the user voice reform I was inspired beyond expectation on my Churchill Fellowship trip in 2015, the Reintegration Puzzle Conference convened by Deakin University, now in its 13th year and with the theme #changingsystemsfromtheinsideout has celebrated its best, most moving, informative, reformative and credible conference to date, helping to break down the ‘us versus them’ division.
In the words of User Voice (United Kingdom),
We believe that the fundamental issue that causes high rates of re-offending and all the other associated problems is the ‘us vs. them’ culture. Society feels frustrated with those who re-offend repeating cycles of behaviour and not engaging with rehabilitation services. Yet people with convictions feel marginalised by society, with rehabilitation services which are often inaccessible and unhelpful and a system that doesn’t value their input. Whatever the truth, we won’t reduce crime unless we deal with this division.
Rehabilitation only happens when everyone in the criminal justice system shares responsibility for transforming the ‘us vs. them’ division into real collaboration.
Bringing together some of the most emerging inspirational people with lived experience of the criminal justice system in Australia, the Reintegration Puzzle conference was led by speakers sharing their own stories and how they are now driven to bring reform to the Australian prison system. Combining lived and professional experience they are inspiring and empowering others who are struggling to ‘go straight’ move forward positively with their lives in the mainstream world and informing policy makers on much needed systemic change.
Glenn E Martin, JustLeadershipUSA spoke to conference delegates via a pre-recorded interview with Matt Tyler in Harlem, New York, USA. Glenn reinforced the message those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.
Conference keynote speaker, Keenan Mundine, Principal Consultant/Owner of Inside Out Aboriginal Justice Consultancy powerfully stated #don’ttalkaboutuswithoutus and #morethandataandstatistics. Behind the data and research statistics are real people. People with feelings and emotion.
Wise words continued from many speakers. In the session Reintegration: Women with Seeds of Affinity and Radio Seeds we heard how prison does not solve the social problems that lead to offending and only makes it worse. What is needed is connection, relationships and community acceptance.
I was honoured to present again on my Churchill Fellowship research in the breakout session Harnessing Lived Experience with inspirational colleagues. It was wonderful to know that one of my research recommendations has come to fruition at this conference:
3. b) Criminal justice conferences and forums should routinely invite reformed offenders as keynote speakers, including international speakers.
I was thrilled to be interviewed by Radio Seeds for their next podcast and interviewed live by Raf Epstein on ABC Melbourne’s Drive program while at the conference and let listeners know that we will soon trial a peer mentoring program in Victoria! Stay tuned! You can listen here: ABC Melbourne Drive
Real reform has begun. Profound personal, community and systemic change in Australia is now possible.
In light of the most recent community parole debate, there is a need to provide the common sense and accurate response.
Here is my letter to the Editor that appeared in the Age and Herald Sun last week.
The tragic events involving parolees should not result in responses that are likely to put us in more danger. Community safety is enhanced when people are released under parole supervision. The majority of prisoners are eventually released and it is in the community’s interest to have them released onto a period of parole rather than no parole/supervision. Do we ever ask, “what did the prison do to lower the risk of an ex-prisoner reoffending?”, especially given the enormous cost of prisons to taxpayers and the recurring rehabilitation failure rate. It is time to hold prisons to a higher level of accountability and transparency regarding prisoner rehabilitation. The Age
To be accurately and responsibly informed of the case in question and parole process, I encourage all to listen to the chairman of the Victorian Adult Parole Board, His Honour Judge Peter Couzens speaking with Neil Mitchell, 3AW. 3AW Mornings with Neil Mitchell
Come along and spread the word. The 13th annual Reintegration Puzzle Conference in Sydney 21 – 23 June 2017 has the theme changing systems from the inside out. So many great presentations on the program. Alongside wonderful colleagues, I am presenting Prison Reform through the Expertise of Returned Citizens: Learning from Reformed Offenders who have Gone Straight Makes Sense. Do not miss the chance to participate in Australia’s only not for profit conference focusing on reintegration of people post-prison. Register today!
Many thanks to Donna Thomas, Journalist, Midland Express for coverage of my appearance at the Parliamentary Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria.
The Parliamentary Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria held its first public hearing on Friday 17 March, 2017.
I was honoured to be invited to give evidence.
Here is my submission to the Inquiry:
More details on the parliamentary inquiry into youth justice centres in Victoria are available from the Committee’s website: The Legal & Social Issues Committee
In case you missed it, on 30th January, I was a guest again on 3CR’s Community Radio ‘Doin Time’ show with wonderful broadcaster Pete Esan (co broadcaster Marisa Sposaro not far away). Jared Sharp. Jesuit Social Services’ General Manager in the Northern Territory joined us by phone. Jared, formerly a lawyer with the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agency, was featured in ABC TV’s Four Corners investigation into Darwin’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, which resulted in the Federal Government establishing a Royal Commission into the Territory’s youth detention and child protection systems.
Given the crisis in Victoria’s Youth Justice system, we talked about the much needed youth justice and adult prison reform in all states and territories. In particular, the need for Elders, mentors, and restorative justice. The role of Elders is vital in youth justice systems where indigenous youth are over represented. We need prisons becoming more like communities, adopting the UK’s User Voice democratic prison council practices. Communities introducing restorative justice and ‘Save Our Streets / SOS gang’s projects with reformed gang members, such as those in practice in the US, UK, Ireland and Sweden.
It is vital to utilize the lived experience of those who have been there before, survived and moved on in life. They are the experts, the ones with the credibility and respect, the ones who can build the trust, inspiration and motivation for those struggling to see how they could live another life, other than crime and revolving detention. Reformed offenders believe in a person’s ability to change – just as they did. As we know, real reform will only commence when governments implement Ombudsman’s’, Royal Commission’s and my Churchill Fellowship research recommendations.