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Reaching In and Reaching Out. Supporting positive transitions for young people post detention Tim Moore & Vicky Saunders ICPS. Context. Little known about transitions:

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reaching in and reaching out
Reaching In and Reaching Out

Supporting positive transitions for young people post detention

Tim Moore & Vicky Saunders


  • Little known about transitions:
    • Unfortunately, even a cursory glance at the research literature and the policy landscape reveals just how little is known about the transition of young people from prisons to the community or how best to increase the likelihood that the transitions are successful (Mears & Travis, 2004b, p4)
  • Almost nothing known about how young people think and feel about incarceration and their transitions
lost in transition
Lost in Transition:
  • Funded in 2007 by the then DHCS prior to the establishment of Bimberi Youth Justice Centre
  • Research questions:
    • How do young people experience the transition from detention back to the community?
    • What are the challenges that limit the success of their reintegration?
    • 11 Young people on a committal order in 2007-8,
      • 3 interviews
      • Interviews with their family and / or support person
      • Review of 120 case files
    • Review of the literature
    • Interviews with key informants in other jurisdictions
what we know about incarceration
What we know about Incarceration
  • evidence strongly suggests that incarceration, in and of itself, has limited positive influence over rates of recidivism and, in fact, may have a negative impact:
    • connections to communities are broken
    • supports and services are diminished
    • poor self concept
    • negative attribution to crime and
    • deskilling and institutionalisation

(Andrews et al., 1990; MacKenzie, 2000; UK Home Office, 2005)

  • You lose everything inside. You get out and you don’t know how to do shit anymore. And everyone expects you to do stuff for yourself and you’re like really wanting to do it but sometimes you just don’t know how. And it freaks you out and you start stressing and then you get all angry at yourself and then you can’t do stuff even if you wanna. You kinda need someone just saying, ‘yeah that’s it’, not doing it for you but like letting you know you’re doing the right thing or going ‘how about you try this’ and helping you cos its completely different out, hey. Nothing like inside. And the longer you’re in the harder it is. (YP9)
As a result, research contends that:
    • Low risk offenders should be diverted from the system
    • Rehabilitation of young people needs to be the primary focus throughout their engagement with the system(s)
    • Best outcomes are achieved when protective factors are strengthened and sustained and risks are managed throughcare
    • Sustainable outcomes are achieved when the ultimate goal is that the young person is (re)integrated into their communities and negative impacts of incarceration are resolved

Participants believed that rehabilitation resulted in:

  • A decrease in criminal behaviour
  • A general improvement in the lives and future life opportunities of young people

[Rehabilitation is] making you make better choices than what you do. Basically, trying to find yourself more. Your better side so you don’t have to come back. Like who you are, who you really are. Trying to be better than what you were before (YP10)

managing risks together
Managing risks… TOGETHER
  • I’m going to try to stay away from everyone who uses. Ice especially. Which is going to be hard because a few members of my family are on it at the moment. And yeah, I’m pretty determined not to use (YP11).
  • It gets too hard so I started using em. It was only like 2 weeks ago that I started [after being out for 9 months]… It was everything, all too much. My Mum was here and she said she didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore… I just couldn’t cope and I just had to [use]
I also think you can take them away but they are always going to come back to where their family is. If you take them away you need to make sure they develop skills for when they come back home.
enabling protective factors
Enabling protective factors
  • Supporting positive connections:
    • With family
    • With positive peers (incl partners)
    • With education
    • With positive activities (including employment)
    • [When I get out I’m going to stay at home] Look after my brother. He keeps me distracted. He’s only 4. He doesn’t really understand it. It’s screwed up to see his face when he walks in a place like this. My sister understands it. She hates it. She gets over it and comes in here but it f**ks up our relationship. She looks at me different. I wanna just go on with life and not do anything wrong. (YP2)
developing alternative futures
Developing alternative futures
  • Young people need to feel prepared to change, have a positive attitude towards change and have developed strategies in place for this to occur (Abrams, 2006; Abrams & Auilar, 2005; Greve, 2001a),
mirror supports
Mirror supports
  • Here’s the thing, right. I reckon that if I didn’t go through this stuff I wouldn’t have the support that I’m getting now. I’ve thought about it lots. If I could go back to 16 and do things different, I wouldn’t do anything different. I wouldn’t hurt the people I did but other than that I wouldn’t do nothing different.
the power of relationship
The power of relationship
  • No judgment. That’s got to be number one. They can’t have any judgments and criticisms… they have to make the time, the patience and also have the connections to make things happen…You want someone who is committed to the job, and is actually there to help. Not something that you can’t just walk into and go like ‘I’ve got qualifications at TAFE. I’m a youth worker.’ It’s not like that anymore…You got to have a worker who knows how to reach inside someone and go ‘look, I am not gonna hurt you, I am not gonna tell other people ‘bout ya, I am not gonna put judgment and criticism on ya, I am gonna help ya to the best of my ability. What do yawanna…tell me everything I need to know – and to have trust. I wish I had someone (YP11).
embedding young people
EmBedding young people
  • I was playing indoor cricket every week, touch footy on Mondays, I’d play and then I’d referee the games. [There was one guy who]…was great, helped keep me busy and linked up with stuff… I think it’s good to do sport with someone you know, so that you can have fun straight away, they can help you get to know the others in the team.
it s about us
It’s about us
  • “Ultimately, as a system we must be hopeful both for the young people in our care but also in our capacity to help them make changes in their lives.”
  • To achieve a successful transition, the young people in this study recognised that:
    • they needed to create robust connections with family, peers, school, workplaces and the broader community;
    • they needed to develop skills to manage and resolve the negative effects of incarceration;
    • to get support to manage the risk-filled environments to which they were returning.
  • They believed that having positive relationships might best facilitate this.
lost in transition1
Lost in transition
  • Available on the website at