The Transition Assistance program, the Link Out program, the Women’s Integrated Support program and the Konnect program are programs designed to ease the transition from prison to the community, addressing issues including; housing, employment, addiction support, Centrelink services and Community Correctional Services.
Corrections Victoria’s approach to transitional support for exiting prisoners begins at reception. A broad transitional framework encompasses universal services offered to all prisoners, and targeted services offered to sentenced prisoners with multiple and complex transitional needs and at moderate to high risk of re-offending. Program providers generally work with prisoners prior to release, and for varying lengths of time after release.
All of Corrections Victoria’s transition programs are designed to ease the transition from prison to the community, with the goal of successful re-integration and, ultimately, reduced likelihood of re-offending.
The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is offered to all sentenced prisoners within the final six months of their sentence. TAP provides prisoners with information about community-based services and supports available to assist their transition.
TAP is made up of a series of practical information sessions delivered by correctional staff and external support agencies. Session topics include drug and alcohol treatment and support, employment, legal issues, accommodation, identification, Centrelink services, health, and Community Correctional Services (for prisoners on a post-release order). In addition, prisoners are provided with a Getting Started booklet, which sets out useful information and contacts necessary upon release.
Three programs provide intensive transitional support for sentenced prisoners with multiple and complex transitional needs and at moderate to high risk of re-offending. These programs are offered three months prior to release (parole or straight release) and provide support for up to 12 months after release. They address the significant transitional issues such prisoners face upon release from prison, such as housing, drug and/or alcohol issues, mental health and social isolation, employment and family reunification.
The Link Out program works with men, the Women’s Integrated Support program works with women, and the Konnect program offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male and female prisoners culturally relevant and sensitive support services.
Corrections Victoria also funds a range of other, small-scale transitional programs and support services. These address a range of transitional issues including employment support, banking, and family reunification counselling. Many of these programs target particular demographic groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Vietnamese prisoners, women and young adult prisoners.
If the prison manager has sufficient notice, they must inform the prisoner at least seven days before release of the actual date of release (reg 79 Corrections Regulations).
The prison manager must ensure that all property and money belonging to the prisoner are returned on release (reg 80).
Prior to release, the prisoner may also apply for leave to attend job interviews and to arrange accommodation (see ss 57–58, regs 48–49 and the Local Operating Procedures). ACSO (see “Contacts and useful links”) provides a database of companies prepared to offer employment to people with criminal records. Assistance is given only to ex-prisoners who have decided to disclose their criminal record.
Any person who has served seven or more days in prison is eligible for two weeks payment of Special Benefit (see “Special Benefit” in Dealing with social security). To ensure that this is paid immediately on release, a person should obtain the necessary form from the prison officials, who stamp it. When this form is presented at the employment office, an immediate benefit is payable. Alternatively the prisoner can attend the nearest Centrelink office and apply directly for assistance. Centrelink can then confirm with the prison that the prisoner has just been released and is accordingly eligible for assistance. To obtain further unemployment or special benefits, the applicant may have to provide Centrelink with their tax file number.
VACRO provides a variety of services for people who have been released from prison (and for a person’s family while in prison). VACRO officers can arrange for necessary assistance on release if they receive the request in advance. Voluntary agencies also provide assistance to ex-prisoners and their families (see “Contacts and useful links”).