More than half of Australians in prisoner expect to be homeless on release. If former prisoners exit into homelessness, they are also twice as likely to return to prison within the first nine months of release. For people exiting prison, multiple legal, social, financial and health issues can create significant barriers to reintegration, including access to stable housing.
Through Justice Connect’s ongoing work with people in prison, which is targeted at breaking the cycle between incarceration, homelessness and the justice system, we see that access to holistic legal, housing, education, employment, and health supports are vital to successful reintegration. However, the ability to access wrap-around, post-release legal help is limited. In this context, Justice Connect have created a scoping study with a view to better understanding those needs and considering best-practice integrated legal service models to reduce homelessness and increase community reintegration.
This presentation will share the findings of Justice Connect’s recent post-release scoping paper, which is contributing to the development of an integrated legal model to impactfully address the diverse post-release needs of prisoners. Discussion will focus on the insights gathered through in-depth research and consultation with a range of stakeholders, including people with lived experience of prison, specialist legal services, and post-release support providers, along with future directions.
Samantha Sowerwine is principal lawyer of Justice Connect Homeless Law and leads Homeless Law's criminalisation and prison work. Samantha has been working in the community legal sector for over 15 years. Prior to working at Justice Connect, Samantha managed the Homeless Persons' Legal Service in Sydney, set up the Mental Health Legal Centre's Inside Access Project and worked as a lawyer with Victoria Legal Aid & the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.