The Obstacles to Effective Support of People Released from Prison report urges the NSW Government and relevant departments and agencies to implement its findings and recommendations in efforts to reduce imprisonment and enhance community wellbeing and safety. The report findings – combined with extensive literature – illustrate that addressing reoffending and reimprisonment requires a coordinated whole-of-government approach across justice, community and welfare services, housing and health.
The new report is a result of a roundtable at UNSW Law in 2018 with community sector organisations that provide post-release support to prisoners. Its authors are Professor Julie Stubbs, Professor Eileen Baldry, Emeritus Professor David Brown, Professor Chris Cunneen (UTS), Melanie Schwartz (UNSW) and Research Associate Sophie Russell.
It recommends a government agency – which is not Corrective Services NSW – leads efforts to help people build pathways out of the criminal justice system.
“To break cycles of chronic disadvantage and imprisonment, community-based services with expertise in working with criminalised populations must be appropriately funded and adequately resourced to provide long-term support to people with complex needs,” says Melanie Schwartz, senior lecturer at UNSW Law and co-author.
The Obstacles to Effective Support of People Released from Prison report is particularly relevant in the context of renewed government investment in strategies intended to reduce reoffending in NSW. In June 2019, it was announced that one of the key NSW Premier’s Priorities is to reduce the 12-month rate of adult reoffending by 5% by 2023.
The Obstacles to Effective Support of People Released from Prison report details the common barriers community sector organisations face in delivering effective transitional support to people leaving prison in NSW. It focuses on four broad areas:
- concerns relating to service referrals and exiting custody practices
- the health needs of people leaving prison, particularly with regard to mental health disorders, cognitive impairment and substance addiction
- housing instability and homelessness
- the need for long-term funding stability and strong evaluation frameworks
The report notes, while some of these barriers have long been identified as concerns for organisations working in this space, others have emerged more recently in response to the changing post-release landscape in NSW.