PRISON = RECIDIVISM

How our attempts to reduce recidivism, actually drive it.

My name is Dean Lloyd. I am 46 years old and acutely aware that I sit in the most privileged demographic in the world; WHITE MALE.

I was born south of Sydney, have been married for 11 years and I am a father of three currently living in Sydney’s inner west. Perhaps most importantly…I am a surfer. I am a person who still experiences discrimination and disadvantage as a result of a terrible decision I made 20 years ago. Most importantly I want you to know I am more than that poor decision.

Today I have been invited to share with you my personal experience of the NSW Criminal Justice System through the lens of a criminalised person and a person who has chosen to work with people exiting prison.

This is a topic, I could happily discuss for hours and hours on end. As I was putting together my notes for today, many things came to mind. These are six things I would love to highlight about my experience

1. The detrimental impact of Corrective Services Industries running NSW prisons. Commoditising people.

2. The profoundly dehumanising process of Prison.

3. How I became so desperate in my Heroin addiction, I was sentenced to four years of prison for a violent armed robbery.

4. How the longer I spent in Prison, the easier it got to stay there.

5.  How a four-year prison sentence turned into a life of perpetual punishment

6. The Countless sad stories about people who needed support but ended up in Prison.

But today I have been asked to present on the issue of Recidivism

I like to remain as solution-focused as possible, So I will talk about my process to find solutions to recidivism.

1.      First, Defining the problem

2.      Second, The power of Language

3.      And lastly, Practical Solutions

DEFINING THE PROBLEM

Because without a defined problem, there is not a viable solution.

When I googled the definition of  Recidivism this is what I found; The tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend.

In my experience,  to seriously address Recidivism we need to agree on what is driving  Recidivism and how to accurately measure it.

Criminologists’ agree that the most authentic mechanism of measurement for “Recidivism” is by measuring the number of people  currently in Prison against those that have already been in Prison. Which was a figure 70% as according to the NSW inmate census 2018.

So what is driving people to re-offend?

I believe, from my personal experience, that the barriers people face when released, such as lack of housing and employment, coupled with the lack of preparation for both the releasee and the Community where they will return, fuel a dangerous instability.

A message that I think is important for you to know is that Prison release is a traumatic experience.

Moving from Prison, a world that is familiar and accepting of who you are into the Community…, a place, so foreign, unforgiving and rejecting of you as a person and your attempt to assimilate, is demoralising, debilitating and confusing.

In my experience, the majority of people currently released are intensely ill-equipped to deal with this process, so they will resource themselves with familiar coping strategies such as drug and alcohol use in order to feel safe and survive this hostile experience. Drug and alcohol use are parole violations designed to reduce recidivism, but actually end up fuelling it.

One of many examples of how current methods of reducing recidivism actually drive it.

LANGUAGE & IT’S IMPORTANT ROLE IN GHANGE:

The language we use and the stories we tell have great significance to those involved. They carry a sense of hope and possibility or can be associated with a sense of pessimism and low expectations, both of which can influence personal outcomes.

Labels are good on Jars, not people.

Dean Lloyd

Think about the language that is used to describe people exiting Prison. It is so debilitating, words such as offender, parolee, criminal and inmate keep people identified as” the problem.”

To be released you must be RISK-assessed, required to address criminogenic needs; you are told not to consort with bad people just like you, reinforcing the stigma you will carry with you for the rest of your life. BAD, DAMAGED, a perpetual risk.

Alternatively, imagine being released using this language….

We now invite you to participate and contribute to our Community.

How would you like to contribute?

How can we help you achieve this?

Some examples of how language is used to manipulate and confuse the public perception of the current Criminal Justice System:

The very term Corrective Services = For all my involvement with corrective services, I have yet to witness anything they have corrected.

The term Criminogenic Needs = There is no such thing; people are human, they have human needs and deserve to be treated humanely.

And now onto the last topic. 

Practical Solutions

I am taking a systemic approach in my attempt to change our antiquated punitive system. My perspective is that societies inability to address the problems it creates results in the necessity of our current Criminal Justice System.

In my experience, prison provides a palatable and convenient solution that supports society to ineffectually outsource its problems; by labelling people as bad and locking them in cages under the guise that we are keeping the Community safe.

From my experiences, I have observed that 95% of the prison population are people who need help, not to be stripped of their basic human dignity and capacity to function, as is currently visited upon people impacted by the criminal justice system.

In 2019, the Deputy Director of Justice Initiatives and Close Rikers at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Dana Kaplan, speaking at the International Criminal Justice Conference emphatically showed that more prisons lead to a more violent community.

What regularly gets missed in our current punitive model is; the requirement for increased connection – not isolation.

“A Community Problem, Requires A Community Solution.”

Dean Lloyd

What does that actually mean?

It means that when we take a systemic approach that supports Communities where the vast majority of prisoners come from to increase their capacity, by promoting inclusion, creating social capital, strengthening bonds, empowering through self-determination and social values, and taking a collaborative and supportive approach to people who need help, we can assist these communities to become responsible for their behaviour and to define what they are willing to accept. This is early intervention in action.

I have recently written and delivered a pre & post-release employment program in 3 NSW metropolitan prisons. Through this work, it became apparent to me that it was both prisoners and employers that require education, support and training in order for post-release initiatives to be successful. This has now become the foundation for Lloyd Criminal Consulting Co.

Based on my own experiences. I think there are six areas that we can focus on to increase capacity and support change.

1. Housing first model – providing a stable foundation for sustained freedom.

2. We need to stop punishing people who need help.

3. Increased public education, awareness and training to help employers understand how they can unlock the value of employing someone with a criminal record.

4. The focus needs to shift towards… ‘how can we send people back into our communities in better shape and more resourced than when they arrived in prison’.

5. Understanding that the safest thing you can do is employ someone with a criminal record.

6. Something I see as an absolutely key missing component in the release process is family inclusion in the pre-release period, and when not viable, plugging people into community support networks such as Park Run and other programs that foster pre and post-release engagement.

In – summary

The current attempt to reduce Recidivism, is not viable.

When we realistically look at Recidivism and its alarming statistics it is obvious we can do better.

If we keep doing what we have always done, we will keep getting what we have always got.

A best practice model that I believe would work, requires a program that is provided by an external organisations like this;

  • 3 months pre-release programs targeted at release preparation incorporating families, support workers, employers and community corrections
  • Those being released triaged directly into appropriate housing solutions
  • Education, training and support for all stakeholders
  • 12 months post release support for all stakeholders
  • Provision of various pathways that understand the realistic goal for people to be in employment or in further education 6 months post release or once stable.
  • People who have lived experience, trained and employed in support roles (paid not mentors)

“A Community Problem Requires A community Solution.”

Thank you Caroline for inviting me into this community today.

Together We Can

Solutions to recidivism

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