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Many prisoners experience significant challenges in reintegrating after their release from prison. These challenges can be compounded by social disadvantage and complex needs related to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, acquired brain injury, homelessness and unemployment.
The Corrections Victoria Reintegration Pathway provides pre-release programs responsive to each prisoner’s transitional needs on entry to prison, throughout their prison sentence and to assist with returning to the community. Post-release support is available to prisoners who require more intensive support.
With the objective of reducing risk to the Victorian community, the Corrections Victoria Reintegration Program targets seven critical domains as the key drivers of effective and successful reintegration:
- education and training
- independent living skills
- mental health
- alcohol and drugs
- family/community connectedness.
Transitional activities commence on entry and continue throughout a prisoner’s time in custody, building on achievements and interventions of previous stages.
Upon reception into custody, all prisoners receive the Reception Transition Triage (RTT) assessment, which aims to manage debt and take action to address any existing housing arrangements that, if left unaddressed, would lead to an exacerbation of debt and difficulty accessing housing in the future.
For remandees and prisoners serving sentences longer than 18 months a Case Planning Transition (CPT) assessment is conducted. The CPT builds on issues identified in the RTT, providing assistance and referrals for transitional needs that can be addressed during their sentence. For further information about programs for remandees see information regarding the Remand Release Assistance Program (RRAP) below.
A dedicated pre-release program titled ReGroup is available to all sentenced prisoners and commences up to 18 months prior to release (or immediately upon entry for prisoners serving shorter sentences). ReGroup provides general information and referral services to prisoners who are streamed into services or sessions most relevant to their needs.
Building on ReGroup, a contracted program, ReLink, is run by VACRO (the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) and is available for eligible prisoners up to 12 months prior to release.
There are two components, which provide practical advice and tailored transitional support, particularly for women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, and those serving longer sentences.
Group Program: Facilitated group sessions focus on practical strategies and provide an opportunity for positive behaviour change influenced by peers, while allowing for practice of positive skills.
Individual Program: This program supports individual transition case planning for prisoners identified in the group program as having significant transitional needs.
ReLink includes intensive planning around prisoner goals and formulates manageable steps for the prisoner to work through. Other support, including medical assessments, Office of Housing applications and referrals for post-release support agencies before release, is covered in this program.
ReConnect provides targeted (up to four weeks) and intensive (up to 12 months) post-release reintegration outreach services for serious violent or sex offenders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, women prisoners and prisoners with high transitional needs. It is designed to provide responsive, tailored and flexible support.
ReConnect is delivered by Jesuit Social Services (External link), Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO)(External link), Victorian Association for the Care & Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) (External link), and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (External link).
Remand Release Assistance Program (formerly the Court Discharge Information Session)
The Remand Release Assistance Program (RRAP) is available to remand prisoners who may be discharged directly from court. There are a number of reasons why a remand prisoner may be discharged from court - they might get bail, be released for time served, may receive a Community Correction Order and so forth. A large number of people exit the criminal justice system through direct court discharge.
The absence of known release dates for remand prisoners poses a number of challenges to pre-release transition planning.
The program aims to equip individuals with information about relevant support services that may be able to help them in the event of discharge directly from court.
The Remand Release Assistance Program provides information about the following:
- Centrelink payments and services, including the crisis payment
- crisis accommodation
- health services, including accessing medication
- drug and alcohol harm minimisation
- processes for collecting personal property and money from the prison
- information about the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) and CREDIT/Bail support programs.
Read more about available support in the What To Do If You Are Released From Court leaflet (in English or Vietnamese), and read more here about Remand.
Corrections Victoria Housing Program
The Corrections Victoria Housing Program (CVHP) can provide housing and support to individuals who are at risk of homelessness and at increased risk of reoffending upon release from prison. The CVHP has access to transitional housing placements through arrangements with Registered Housing Agencies. Eligible applicants must be engaged with ReConnect or the Community Support Program.
The CVHP recognises the importance of stable, supported accommodation for individuals to successfully transition from prison to the community and to reduce the risk of reoffending.
In addition to the CVHP, the Corrections Victoria Brokerage Program (CVBP) provides financial assistance to individuals to assist with securing long-term housing outcomes.
A literature review of Supported housing for prisoners returning to the community reviews current literature on approaches to delivering housing support for prisoners returning to the community.
Further information about the Corrections Victoria Housing Program can be obtained by contacting the Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pip Wisdom Community Corrections Grants
The Pip Wisdom Community Corrections Grants (PWCCG) are named after Pip Wisdom, a senior public servant in the corrections system who contributed significantly to the advancement of the role of non-government agencies in providing correctional services in Victoria.
The grants are an important component of Corrections Victoria's work in addressing the reintegration needs of prisoners, offenders and their families in Victoria. A total of $1.8 million across the grant period, which provides community agencies with funding to deliver programs and services that focus on supporting prisoners to make a successful transition from prison to the community and in turn reduce their risk of re-offending.
Grants are provided on a three yearly basis, with the most recent round of grants covering the period from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2019. Three existing programs were not successful in receiving continued funding under the PWCCGs:
- NOVO Recovery Program - delivered by ACSO at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.
- Bridge Employment Support Program (BEST) - delivered by YMCA at the Metropolitan Remand Centre, Marngoneet Correctional Centre and Barwon Prison.
- Genesis Program - delivered by BridgingWorx at Port Phillip Prison, Barwon Prison and Metropolitan Remand Centre.
These programs have been extended for an additional three months to 30 September 2016 to allow sufficient time to transition the programs out of the system or negotiate alternative arrangements.
Additionally, the Vietnamese Support Program (delivered by the Australian Vietnamese Women's Association) and the Family Connections Program (delivered by VACRO) have been extended for an additional 12 months to 30 June 2017. Further details regarding these programs can be found in the summary below.
Prison Fellowship is running Transition 24 (T24). T24 targets mature aged prisoners (50 years and over) with little or no pro-social community supports. It offers pre, and post release assistance paying particular attention to a participant's first 24 hours in the community after release from custody. Trained Prison Fellowship volunteers will typically meet prisoners in the weeks and months prior to release and upon release will provide practical supports including transportation to appointments, taking participants out for a meal and inviting participants to attend life skill classes such as food preparation, financial and IT related tasks. T24 support can continue for up to 12 months, however the minimum support that participants will receive is 24 hours post release. Post release supports can include weekly support meetings as well as regular one on one mentoring sessions. Available at all Victorian prisons.
Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) is organising the Muslim Connect program, which provides Muslim prisoners with pre and post release mentoring support as a means of assisting individuals to reintegrate successfully back into the community. Actual services provided vary as case plans address the unique needs of each client, but the program aims to improve community connectedness, spiritual / religious support as well as making referrals to Muslim and mainstream services which can provide ongoing support. Available at all Victorian prisons (participants post release address must be within 60 kilometres of the Melbourne Central Business District).
Shine for Kids is running the Prison in Visits Program which provides purposeful, positive, engaging diversionary activities for children visiting a parent in prison. Program staff and volunteers facilitate unstructured art and craft activities to provide prisoners with a way to engage with their children in an informal manner. Children and prisoners participate in the activities together, and are provided with non-intrusive support to ensure that their participation is fun and positive. This program is available at Barwon Prison and Metropolitan Remand Centre.
Shine for Kids is also running the Supported Children's Transport Program (SCTP). This program provides assistance to children who would otherwise be unable to visit their parent in custody due to transportation or related issues. Available at all Victorian prisons.
Jesuit Social Services (JSS) is running the African Australian Community Transition Program (AACT), which provides mentoring and visitation support to prisoners and offenders (on Parole or a Community Corrections Imprisonment Order) who are of African background. Trained community volunteers engage prisoners and offenders to promote and strengthen community reintegration through the provision of practical and culturally responsive services and information. Limited brief intervention case management is also available for offenders being supported in Community Correctional Services. Available at Port Phillip Prison, Metropolitan Remand Centre, Melbourne Assessment Prison, Barwon Prison and Marngoneet Correctional Centre.
The Salvation Army is organising the Transit Program which provides exiting prisoners with an intellectual disability or acquired brain injury with ten weeks of case management as well as practical and housing supports as a means of assisting individuals to re-establish themselves in the community. Actual services provided vary as case plans address the unique needs of each client. Transit will assist individuals to develop links with services which can provide ongoing support. Available at Port Phillip Prison and Loddon Prison.
Prison Network Ministries provides the following programs for women prisoners at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and Tarrengower Prison:
Fun With Mum provides purposeful, positive, engaging diversionary activities for children visiting a parent in prison in an informal, non-intrusive supportive manner to ensure that the visit and interaction is fun and positive. Transport assistance for children who would otherwise be unable to visit their parent in custody is provided.
Craft and Cooking provides interactive and practical sessions to teach and reinforce life skills through meal preparation and craft activities designed to boost self-esteem and self-worth.
Housing Support provides assisted transitional accommodation for women exiting prison through the provision of secure housing and between 6-12 months of support through advocacy, referrals, friendship, material needs, living skills development, mentoring and encouragement.
Talk It Out provides an opportunity for small groups to discuss emotional regulation and individual differences in an encouraging and inclusive setting. The focus is on managing relationships, skill development, reinforcement of living skills and building resilience.
Friends of Castlemaine Library (FOCAL) organises the Read-Along Dads/Mums program which assists prisoners to stay in touch with their children in a meaningful way. Participants are recorded reading a book for their child which is later sent to the child along with a copy of the book. The child can then listen to their parent's voice and read along, helping to maintain the family connection. Additional benefits include improving prisoners' literacy levels and engagement in writing and craft activities, Available at Loddon Prison, including the Middleton Annex, and Tarrengower Prison.
VACRO runs Family Connections, which provides practical advice, support, information and referrals to prisoners and their families to enhance their relationships and improve their respective experiences of dealing with the prison and criminal justice systems. Support through Family Connections is delivered on an individual needs basis. Available at Melbourne Assessment Prison and Metropolitan Remand Centre.
Australian Vietnamese Women's Association organises the Vietnamese Support Program, providing culturally appropriate individual support, family liaison, information and advocacy for Vietnamese prisoners and their families, including making contact with family abroad. Supports include referrals to culturally appropriate services and incorporate supporting sporting and cultural events such as Lunar New Year and Full Moon festivals at the Melbourne Assessment Prison, Metropolitan Remand Centre, Port Phillip Prison, Barwon Prison, Marngoneet Correctional Centre, Tarrengower Prison and Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.
The Association also offers post release supports to Vietnamese prisoners (on Parole or a Community Corrections Imprisonment Order) in the North West Metropolitan Region only.