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Mindy

Mindy Sotiri

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: New South Wales Legal > Penal And Parole
To research prisoner reintegration services delivered by community sector organisations - UK, USA
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This project is an exploration of best practice in community-based reintegration services for people leaving prison; it has a particular focus on issues related to working with complex needs populations. Complex needs populations include people with cognitive impairment, mental illness, long histories of criminal justice system involvement, homelessness, and limited community connection and engagement. This research included an extensive literature review, hundreds of e-mail and phone conversations with experts around the world, and 26 direct service visits to community based programs in Chicago, Detroit, Washington, Providence, New York, London and Glasgow.

Best practice in community-based reintegration programs with complex needs clients is defined by the following characteristics:

  1. Reintegration framed outside of the lens of rehabilitation. There is a need to create and facilitate pathways for people leaving prison that are not explicitly focused on addressing offending behaviour, but rather focused on the creation of an identity outside of the criminal justice system.

  2. Service delivery incorporating systemic advocacy. Service delivery must include a significant advocacy component that addresses structural barriers for individuals (such as access to housing, employment, education, health and social security benefits), and advocates systemically for change when this is required (for instance in the case of discriminatory employment practices).

  3. Pre-release engagement. Meeting and working with people prior to release is necessary with respect to building the engagement necessary to sustain the case-work relationship, building trust between someone in prison and the community organisation on the outside, and practically planning for re-entry into the community with complex needs populations.

  4. Holistic, relational and long-term casework models. People with long histories of trauma in combination with the “referral fatigue” experienced by this group, require long-term support in order to build engagement and trust. Long-term support also allows people the opportunity to develop the skills required to navigate frequently hostile or unwieldy service systems.

  5. Community based outreach. Services that work with people with long histories of criminal justice system involvement need to operate outside of the criminal justice system, and in the communities in which people are living.

  6. Housing first approaches (and in some jurisdictions, employment first approaches). Support must be concrete. Most people require a solid base from which they can try and make the changes required to stay out of prison.

  7. Genuine collaboration and work with people with lived experience of incarceration at all levels of program delivery. The expertise of people who have themselves been to prison is critical in both the design and the delivery of community based reintegration services.
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