Johnny is 23 and had fallen through the cracks.

He entered adult prison as a 19-year-old with robbery and injury charges, and has a long history of sexual and violent offending as a young person – but despite this history, he initially wasn’t released with any reporting requirements.

Johnny’s care team was concerned that he could have a high risk of reoffending after release. We didn’t have a formal risk assessment available, but his past patterns of sexual and violent offending and past clinical assessments showed some risks. One key challenge was a lack of clarity about his mental health.

A psychiatric report made when Johnny was younger said he met provisional diagnoses for antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. As a child, he was diagnosed with attachment and post-traumatic stress disorders and ADHD. He also has an extensive history of alcohol, cannabis, ice and heroin use. The lack of diagnoses as an adult has been a significant barrier for Johnny in accessing formal support in the community, including through the NDIS.

We knew the complexity of Johnny’s circumstances meant he would need a high level of support from ReConnect and strong coordination with other members of his care team.

Johnny’s release started well. His VACRO case manager picked him up on his day of release and drove him back to Geelong. We booked him into a motel and helped him organise clothes, toiletries, groceries, and a mobile phone. Our case manager quickly built rapport with Johnny, and they were able to start putting in place some of his plans for his release. Johnny had by this stage been made subject to a sexual offences prevention order, and we helped introduce him to his supervision team.

Johnny’s supervision requirements meant he could visit his family, but not live with them, due to child protection restrictions. This meant he spent his first three months out of prison living in motel accommodation. Johnny’s care team knew his high risk of re-offending meant he couldn’t under any circumstances become transient. While at the motel, he applied for multiple private rentals and share housing options – but all were unsuccessful.

We helped turn Johnny’s attention to the things he could control. We helped connect him with a mental health care plan and transition his methadone to Suboxone, as was his goal, and helped facilitate family meetings. After spending so many formative years in prison, Johnny needed time and space to explore his role in the family and what he could now contribute as an adult.

Johnny was exceeding expectations, progressing towards his goals, and engaging well with his care team.

But one night, at the motel, Johnny met another guest, who was outside smoking cannabis. He offered some to Johnny – who said yes.

This was a clear breach of the conditions of Johnny’s supervision order. He immediately owned up, telling Victoria Police and his VACRO case manager. We responded quickly.

Chatting with Johnny, we heard how his mental health had deteriorated. His sleeping patterns were broken, and he was experiencing paranoia and hypervigilance throughout the night. We discussed some coping strategies with Johnny, and spoke with the police. It was agreed that although the incident couldn’t be ignored, Johnny’s progress in his reintegration meant no punitive option would be considered. Victoria Police noted the strong and supportive relationship between Johnny and his care team.

Johnny’s case team was meeting frequently at this point – every two weeks. During these meetings it became clear he would need more than just transitional support.

Johnny’s care team include staff from the government’s cross-department Multiple and Complex Needs Initiative (MACNI), Victoria Police’s Sexual Offender Management Team, and both VACRO and Jesuit Social Services – who deliver ReConnect in metropolitan Melbourne, where Johnny had lived previously.

MACNI arranged for funding for ongoing social support, three days per week. They organised a 12-month stay in a transitional house, paid at a rate of one-quarter of Johnny’s income. With a stable location, we were able to refer Johnny to a GP, psychologist, and local employment agency with experience working with complex individuals.

MACNI also approved a proposal for a full, comprehensive psychological assessment for Johnny, for the first time ever. The results of this assessment will help Johnny and his care team better understand his needs and circumstances, and make it easier to connect him with support, including possibly the NDIS.

Today, Johnny is living independently, in a place of his own. He loves to cook, and often invites his mum and sisters over for dinner. He enjoys woodworking, and has joined a men’s shed – he’d like to start a cabinet-making apprenticeship soon, and has applied to sit his driver’s license test. And, importantly, Johnny no longer keeps his problems bottled up. He asks for help when he needs it – and now, he’s got the people around him to give the support he needs.

More information about VACRO's reintegration support