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 Transition and Reintegration Unit oversees a range of programs that assist prisoners to prepare for being released from prison and transition to life in the community. Post-release help is also available.
At the reception phase of entering prison, all prisoners receive the reception transition triage (RTT) assessment. Remand prisoners and prisoners serving sentences longer than 18 months also receive the case planning transition (CPT) assessment. The CPT builds on issues identified in the RIT and provides referrals for needs that can be addressed during the prisoner’s sentence.
Corrections Victoria runs ReGroup, which is a pre-release program for all sentenced prisoners. Prisoners attend the program up to 18 months before they are due to be released. Also, the ReLink program is available for eligible prisoners up to 12 months before they are due to be released. ReLink provides support such as medical assessments, assistance with Office of Housing applications, and referrals to post-release support agencies.
The ReConnect program provides targeted (up to four weeks) and intensive (up to 12 months) post-release outreach services for serious violent offenders, serious sex offenders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, female prisoners, and prisoners with high transitional needs.
Three programs provide intensive transitional support for sentenced prisoners with multiple and complex transitional needs who are at moderate to high risk of re-offending. These programs are offered three months before a prisoner is due to be released (on parole or a straight release) and provide support for up to 12 months after release. The programs address the significant transitional issues such prisoners face upon release from prison, such as housing, drug/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.
The Remand Release Assistance Program (RRAP) is available to remand prisoners who may be discharged directly from court. RRAP provides remand prisoners with information about relevant support services, such as Centrelink, crisis accommodation, health services, and the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP)/Bail Support Program.
Corrections Victoria’s housing program can provide transitional housing to individuals who have been released from prison. For more information, contact the Corrections Victoria’s housing program coordinator (see “Contacts”).
Corrections Victoria funds other transitional programs and support services that address transitional issues including employment, banking, and family reunification. Many of these programs target particular demographic groups (e.g. Vietnamese 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).
Before being released, the prisoner may apply for leave to attend job interviews and to arrange accommodation (see ss 57–58; regs 48–49; Local Operating Procedures or Operations Manuals). ACSO (see “Contacts”) has a list 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 days or more in prison is eligible to receive two weeks payment of the Special Benefit (see “Special Benefit” in Dealing with social security). To apply for this benefit, attend the nearest Centrelink office and apply directly for assistance. Centrelink then confirms with the prison that the person has just been released and is eligible for assistance.
There are many agencies that assist ex-prisoners and their families. These agencies include ASCO, Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, Flat Out, the Islamic Council of Victoria, Jesuit Social Services, Prison Network Ministries, the Prison Fellowship, Shine for Kids, the Salvation Army and VACRO (see “Contacts”.
For a full list of support services, visit www.corrections.vic.gov.au.