Release support

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.

Overview

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.

Release programs

The Corrections Victoria Reintegration Pathway (CVRP) operates throughout a prisoner’s sentence, from reception to after their release and includes:

Reception Transition Triage (RTT): RTT is a short assessment of each prisoner conducted when they arrive at prison. RTT identifies what practical support each prisoner needs (e.g. help with reducing debts). Remand prisoners who may be released directly from court are referrred to the Remand Release Assistance Program (RRAP). RRAP gives remand prisoners information about relevant support services that can assist them if they are released directly from court.

Case Planning Transition (CPT): CPT is for all remand prisoners and for sentenced prisoners who are serving sentences longer than 12 months. CPT builds on the RTT assessment by identifying any additional transitional needs. This feeds into the development of a prisoners case plan.

ReGroup: The ReGroup program is for all sentenced prisoners and starts 12 months before a prisoner is due to be released. The aim of ReGroup is to start planning for a prisoner’s transition back into the community. This is done by identifying what each prisoner will need when they transition from prison back into the community. ReGroup provides the prisoner with the necessary support and referrals to address those needs. This phase of the CVRP is also designed to identify prisoners who may be eligible for more intensive transitional support (e.g. ReLink).

ReLink: The ReLink program is provided to prisoners before they are released; the program is for prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or more and for at-risk prisoner groups (e.g. Aboriginal and women prisoners). The program identifies what support each prisoner will need when they transition from prison back into the community.

ReConnect: The ReConnect program assists prisoners to reintegrate back into the community after they are released. ReConnect has two streams:

1 The targeted reintegration stream provides up to four weeks of support post-release.

2 The extended reintegration stream assists prisoners with complex needs who require a longer period of support after they are released. This stream provides an average of six months of post-release support.

ReStart: The ReStart program provides three months of support after a prisoner has been released. It is provided to prisoners who were on remand and prisoners who served sentences of less then three months who have been identified as needing extra support to successfully reintegrate back into the community.

Other programs and services for prisoners in Victoria that work alongside the CVRP include the ATLAS program for remand prisoners, which is run by Relationships Victoria (www.relationshipsvictoria.com.au). There is also the Yawal Mugadjina cultural mentoring program, which provides Aboriginal prisoners with mentoring from Aboriginal Elders.

Housing 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 (seeContacts”).

Other transition programs

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).

Release procedure

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 101 Corrections Regulations). The prison manager must ensure that all property and money belonging to the prisoner are returned on release (reg 102).

Post-prison support

Any person who has served seven days or more in prison is eligible to receive two weeks payment of the Special Benefit (seeSpecial 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 (seeContacts”).

After being released from prison, offenders have access to the same support services and programs available to the general community. Some offenders are eligible to participate in the ReConnect program, which starts while the offender is in prison and continues to provide support after their release (see “Release programs”).

Support for released offenders is also available from government departments and agencies, at community centres, churches, neighbourhood houses and from emergency relief agencies (e.g. the Salvation Army: www.salvationarmy.org.au, and the St Vincent de Paul Society: www.vinnies.org.au).

To find services in your area, search the Infoxchange Service Seeker (www.serviceseeker.com.au). Health and support services in Melbourne are listed on the City of Melbourne’s website (www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/community/health-support-services/pages/health-support-services.aspx).