Prisoner Throughcare officers Sterling Wedel, left, and Trevor Prior.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) is helping to turn around the lives of many Indigenous prisoners in Queensland.
By supporting Indigenous prisoners (and their families) to make decisions that reduce the likelihood of them reoffending, ATSILS Queensland is reducing recidivism and incarceration rates.
The legal service’s Throughcare program delivers intensive high-quality case management services focused targeted prisoners considered to be of a high risk of re-offending. Support is provided both before and after the prisoners are released from jail.
Where possible, ATSILS Queensland works collaboratively with correctional facility staff and other stakeholders to deliver its Throughcare services.
The legal service has helped to turn around the lives of many Indigenous prisoners – including a client aged in his late forties who suffers an alcohol addiction.
This particular client participated in the Throughcare program for some 15 months following his release. During that time, he established himself in a stable rental unit – his first ever home of his own – refrained from drinking alcohol, and started to mend his relationship with his long-term partner. He reported as required to Probation and Parole and slowly but surely started to sort himself out.
When his Throughcare file was closed, there was justifiable confidence he would continue to progress. However, in late 2016 during a visit to his home community, he was again drawn into negative drinking patterns with some of his friends and family, resulting in him being charged with a drink-driving offence.
The man immediately contacted his former Throughcare officer at ATSILS Queensland who advised him to get a lawyer, and provided him with a letter of support from ATSILS Queensland. The letter, presented at his court appearance, argued that it would be disastrous for the man to return to prison after the progress he had made, and offered to readmit him into the Throughcare program.
The letter of support persuaded the court to release the man on probation. The man’s initial reaction was one of shock that he had not been returned to prison.
“In the past that’s always what happened,” he said.
The client pointed to the support he had received from Throughcare, and the trust, he had in the program that prompted him to ask for help.
Seven months later, the man still enjoys his liberty. While he continues to struggle with his drinking every day, he has not given up. And even better, he now has some confidence the “system” can work in his favour.
If it hadn’t been for Throughcare, the man would have been likely to re-offend, to fail to appear at court or to seek legal advice, and may have ended up back in prison.