New research has shown that employment and housing for those leaving prison are key to preventing recidivism and a subsequent return to detention.
The research, which focused on former detainees in the ACT, highlighted the importance of reducing barriers to employment for people leaving prison, so that they are better equipped to begin life after detention and stay out of the justice system.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “The ACT has one of the highest rates of re-imprisonment in the country. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT experience re-imprisonment at the rate of 94% - the highest rate of any jurisdiction.
“The ACT Government has committed to a program of justice reinvestment. However, too many detainees are being released from the ACT’s prison without adequate support and into homelessness, unemployment and economic uncertainty,” said Dr Campbell.
The research notes that a lack of access to safe and affordable housing is one of the barriers to obtaining employment post-release.
Dr Campbell continued: “Canberrans face a nearly 4-year wait for a standard public housing property and we face an ongoing shortage of more 3,000 social housing dwellings. Without stable accommodation, finding work and holding down a job is almost impossible. Until we have significant investment in social housing provision, vulnerable Canberrans will continue to find themselves falling through the cracks.
“The research also highlights the need for more employment support during and after incarceration including wrap-around services for issues including physical and mental health, education and training, confidence-building, resume writing and interview skills,” said Dr Campbell.
ACTCOSS has continually highlighted ongoing experiences of systemic racism, poverty and intergenerational trauma by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples that contributes to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the ACT’s justice system.
“ACTCOSS has joined with Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services and other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisations in calling on the ACT Government to initiate a Royal Commission or similar commission of inquiry into the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT’s justice system,” said Dr Campbell.
The article, ‘If I don't get a job in six months' time, I can see myself being back in there’: Post‐prison employment experiences of people in Canberra is published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues.
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.