Engaging in meaningful work has been shown to reduce re-offending by ex-prisoners, and yet ex-prisoners have the highest rates of unemployment of any group in Australia.
This study analysed comparative data from Australian jurisdictions and employment service providers on the pathways to employment for ex-prisoners. It incorporated five distinct studies: a cross jurisdictional study of the impact of prison vocational training on reoffending; a national survey of employment services; a qualitative study on the lived experiences of ex-prisoners and employment services staff; and case studies of programs supporting Indigenous prisoners and prisoners with cognitive disabilities. The study was supported by the Australian Research Council, and led by the University of NSW, with Deakin University and industry partners representing peak national bodies, correctional and employment organisations.
The study identified the many challenges for ex-prisoners in finding sustainable employment, and for service provider practitioners who support ex-prisoners. The study found that breaking the cycle of re-offending cannot be achieved at a single point in time, or by a single intervention. It suggests that desistance happens through a series of transitions and that an integrated, holistic support system can provide the best opportunity to promote desistance and reintegration. Such a system requires a ‘whole of government’ approach; it is more than an Employment Services, Corrections or Criminal Justice issue.
This paper presents the main findings of the study and proposes an employment support model for ex-prisoners, which is theoretically informed by person-centred, relational, strengths-based and holistic practice principles.

Lesley Hardcastle

Biography: Dr Lesley Hardcastle was part of the UNSW research team for this study. Previously she was a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at Deakin University, where she worked on projects related to the attitudes of employers to ex-offenders, intensive case management of ex-offenders, and offenders with disability in the justice system, and community attitudes to the justice system and reintegration.

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