Wonderful to be in the 3CR studio again with Marisa for the Doin Time show. Marisa and I had a conversation about the lived experience of the criminal justice system with Keith Hinde and Nick Cernigoi from the Australian Red Cross. Keith Hinde is the Coordinator of the Red Cross Prison Support Program in Tasmania. Nicholas Cernigoi is a Project Officer in the Red Cross Prison Support Program. This program is a volunteer-led community development program that trains selected prisoners to become Peer Supporters in Risdon Prison. Nick is studying a Diploma of Community Services from TasTAFE, and has grounded experience in the Prison Support Program. We spoke about their innovative program, Nick’s experience of overcoming challenges in prison, my Churchill Fellowship report and the recent Reintegration Puzzle Conference.
Listen to the 3CR Doin Time podcast to hear this interview.
Great news! My Churchill Fellowship research has now come to life in Australia!
As we know, in overseas jurisdictions, ex-prisoners who have reformed contribute to reducing re-offending by mentoring newly released prisoners and advising on improvements to service systems that enable people to live a crime free life.
Philanthropic trusts have granted Deakin University funds to develop and trial a peer-led mentoring program to break the cycle of crime and imprisonment in Geelong. This partnership project between Deakin University and Corrections Victoria will design and test a model of peer mentorship for the Australian context, based on my Churchill Fellowship research. Deakin University has appointed me the Project Coordinator.
Many thanks to these Philanthropic Trusts, Deakin University and Corrections Victoria for enabling this to happen.
Give Where You Live: Health & Wellbeing Innovation Grant
Deakin University: To reduce the likelihood that a person will commit further crime and return to prison by providing them with a structured peer mentoring program upon release from prison. The peer-mentoring program will provide direct support and referral to a range of support services that support people who are disadvantaged.
Helen Macpherson Smith Trust: Regional Resilience grant
Deakin University: The role of Peer Mentors in breaking the cycle of crime and imprisonment in Geelong. To undertake a trial of peer led mentoring program for people leaving prison and returning to Geelong under the supervision of Community Correctional Services to test applicability in the Australian context.
The R E Ross Trust
Deakin University: The Role of Peer Mentors in Breaking the Cycle of Crime and Imprisonment in Geelong.
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