Bethany Community Support and Deakin University have launched a new survey to understand people’s experience of community services and support after contact with the criminal justice system.

They’re seeking to interview people living in the Greater Geelong area who have been in prison, served a community corrections order, or have had some other contact with the criminal justice system before this year.

Survey participants will be anonymous, won’t be asked any questions about their sentence or crime, and will be compensated for their time with a $50 eftpos voucher.

Key points:
  • It can be hard to find community support and services after prison
  • Bethany Community Support and Deakin University are looking for people to interview about their contact with the criminal justice system
  • This research hopes to improve service integration for people leaving prison

The survey is part of a new network that seeks to improve connection between different community services in the Greater Geelong area for people leaving prison.

VACRO’s Development Manager Melanie Field-Pimm, a member of the Geelong Integrated Network, said people’s needs weren’t always met by standalone community services.

“The stigma and misunderstanding, even from services, about their history and experience can create significant barriers to accessing support,” she said.

“What is needed is an integrated network of support that responds directly to issues identified by those who have gone through this experience.”

Since 2015, VACRO has run Corrections Victoria’s ReConnect program in the Grampians region and Barwon South West, which includes Geelong and its surrounds.

ReConnect program manager and Geelong Integrated Network member Sarah Hughes said program participants were motivated to get their lives on track, but that disconnected services made things difficult.

“The anxiety people experience when first returning to the community can be so overwhelming that it is difficult for them to know where to start to seek support,” she said.

“That is why it is so important for Geelong to have a vast range of interconnecting services providing streamlined and holistic support to people leaving prison and their family.”

Ms Hughes said the survey will enable people whose lived experience of the criminal justice system gives them expertise in this area to influence the network’s plans.

“The voices of those with lived experience are essential in identifying what is currently missing from the support services in our community. Their knowledge and ideas are integral to the success of any service provision.”

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