Learning from former prisoners who have gone straight makes sense

C. Seppings

Despite the current range of rehabilitation and reintegration programs, more than 55% of the prison population returns. Claire Seppings, funded and supported by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has undertaken a fact-finding visit to the UK, Ireland, Sweden and USA to learn how these countries have successfully utilised the rehabilitative role of ex-prisoner/offenders as peer mentors in reintegration models. There are many offenders who would like to “go straight”, but do not know how. Drawing on the experience of those who have “lived the life” and moved on can really help. By recognising the value that people with lived prison experience can bring to policies and services, and to their own profession, the UK, Ireland, Sweden and the USA have been able to bring positive reform to their criminal justice system. The long-term consequences of a criminal record hamper a person with convictions’ ability to contribute to society, even after they have served their time and stand ready to serve their community. These countries also recognise that laws around disclosure of a person’s previous criminal activity need reform to improve the prospects for such people.

In this presentation, Claire will present an overview of her research, including the key findings and recommendations and highlight some of the inspiring and effective peer-mentoring models she learnt about on her trip. Claire will discuss the reformative role that people with lived experience can provide to the prison system, and how justice sectors can set the example, incorporating in their ethos strong encouragement of former offenders applying for available positions and banning the box from job application forms. We have the opportunity to embrace the expertise of those closest to the problem; and value the commitment of those who have succeeded in desisting and recovering to inspire and help others find their personal success.

Biography

Graduating as a Social Worker from Monash University, in 1984, Claire began her career with the Department of Social Security. As a Naturopath in 1997, Claire conducted a healthy living program in HMP Bendigo. In recent years, as a Social Worker with Centrelink, Claire developed extensive relationships with non-/government sectors. Her commitment to creating innovative projects to reduce recidivism and community impact gained high-level recognition. Claire’s lived experience comes from her former partner and his revolving prison journey. In 2012, Claire received the Victorian Custody Reference Group Access to Justice Award. In 2015, Claire was awarded a Churchill Fellowship.

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