1Gerald Onsando Consulting, Cranbourne North, Australia
The number of African-born prisoners in the state of Victoria is gradually increasing. This presentation is from a research about experiences and perspectives of a cohort of African prisoners in Victoria. This is the first study focusing on experiences and perspectives of Africans in Australian prisons. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 prisoners in four prison locations as well as with three volunteer mentors.
It emerged that African prisoners’ wellbeing was an issue of concern because of their traumatic past personal histories as well as the existing uneasiness about their safety while in prison. The prisoners also confronted sociocultural challenges including experiencing discrimination and racism. Young adult African prisoners were particularly concerned about being harassed by police after their release. Also, the prisoners were confident of receiving family support after they were released from prison but were uncertain of receiving support from their local communities.
From a corrections perspective, the often-challenging experiences African prisoners confronted and the lack of adequate community support pre and post-release, increases their likelihood of reoffending and returning to prison after being released. This means that, addressing the challenging prison experiences and receiving local community support while in prison and post-release will likely reduce African prisoners’ recidivism and improve their reintegration into society. Justice authorities should urgently address the challenges African prisoners face while in custody. The African prisoners also need post-release support particularly from their local communities as well as bespoke educational and employment opportunities to assist their reintegration and resettlement outcomes.
Dr Gerald Onsando, a member of the African community in Victoria, has significant experience of engaging with African communities in sociocultural, leadership, and research contexts. Dr Onsando has published widely and presented findings on different aspects of African communities’ resettlement in Australia and has recently successfully completed a Department of Justice and Regulation research consultancy that reported on ‘Experiences and perspectives of African prisoners in Victoria’.