Thursday, March 24, 2005

Accommodation Models For Offenders with Intellectual Disabilities

Illustration: (Visions and Realities) Australasian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability.

AUSTRALIA: (NSW) My name is James Condren, for many years, I lived in institutions. I have been in lots of trouble with the law and went to gaol. But now I have not been in trouble for a long time. I live in my own flat. I am a Director of New South Wales Council for Intellectual Disability (DADHC).

DADHC has helped me to get my life back on track. A magistrate in Wollongong put me on a good behaviour bond on condition that I accept support and guidance from DADHC. The Disability Trust advocated with DADHC and they offered me a service.

I got a DADHC worker named Kim Moller who helped me with stress management. Whenever something stressed me, I wrote it in a diary instead of doing something that would get me into trouble. I met regularly with Kim to talk about the things in the diary and good ways to deal with them and to avoid them happening.

I also wrote out a work program each week for my work for groups such as Council for Intellectual Disability, Justice Action and self-advocacy. We had worked out that I often got into trouble because I was bored.

This program was overseen by a Committee including me and people from DADHC, the Disability Trust and my church.

The committee met every 3 months until the bonds were finished. I had not breached the bonds.

I have now completed a mentoring course at Justice Action and I have become the Disability Caseworker there. We are still fighting for me to have access to NSW Prisons but hopefully I will get access shortly.

At the Council for Intellectual Disability, I am on the Board and do lots of work on issues like criminal justice and employment.

I also do some work for the Criminal Justice Support Network as an Educator. I speak to new recruits who are training to become Court support/Police Support workers for people with disabilities. I give them a picture what it is like to be on the wrong side of the law and ideas on how to do their job well.

This forum is really important because it can help to keep other people out of gaol. I am now very happy to open the forum and I hope you enjoy the event.

At the Coalition meeting on 8 March, we had a very wide-ranging and stimulating discussion about appropriate accommodation models for offenders with intellectual disabilities.

It was more an open exchange of perspectives than a discussion that sought to reach a clear consensus. As well as many of our usuals attendees, we had present a number of service providers and professionals with extensive experience on this issue - Mary Ellen Burke, Meredith Martin, Phil Hugill, Cheryl Moore, Phillip Petrie.

Also, Andrew Meehan who has done research on accommodation for offenders generally.

NSW Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) will give a detailed response to the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) discussion paper before the closing date of 29 April 2005.

In light of that, the Coalition can consider whether it wants to raise its own submission, endorse the CID submission, or leave it to members to raise individual submissions.

If anyone feels a different process would be better for dealing with this issue, please say.

Update on other issues

Corrective Services follow up - Attached is our letter to Minister Hatzistergos flowing from our last meeting and subsequent discussions I had with Anne Langford.

There have been positive developments in additional staffing forthe Disability Services Unit, both for the special units at Long Bay and for work in prisons around the state. (After the November forum, we also wrote fairly general letters to other relevant ministers. Let me know if you want copies.)

Forum on March 17 - We had a diverse audience of about 90 at the forum which went well. I attach James Condren's wonderful opening speech. I am gathering everyone's presentations and shall then email the rest to you.

Proposed forum with Institute of Criminology - We were talking about having this in August - September. But, I now find that there are various other seminars/conferences on offender issues around that time. (See those on attached info sheet on the Coalition. Also, the Australasian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability, (ASSID) conference in Auckland in October will have big offender focus.)

So, I'm thinking we may be better to delay ours to late November or February 2006. Any thoughts on this?

I have tentatively spoken to Susan Hayes and Bill Glaser about speaking at this. (Bill is the leading Australian psychiatrist in relation to working with offenders with intellectual disabilities. He also runs a course on offenders with intellectual disabilities at the Uni of Melbourne; he is much more than just a psychiatrist. He would probably talk about a dual diagnosis service they have developed in Melbourne.)

NCOSS post release support campaign - Julie, James and I attended a meeting at NCOSS to discuss a possible campaign for government to lift its game on this issue, both generally and in relation to people with intellectual disabilities. We were supportive of the idea and NCOSS is putting together a strategy paper with a view to another meeting soon.

CID lobbying - CID has continued to advocate in all the usual places. Juvenile Justice have done a positive revamp of their draft disability action plan. The mood in DADHC continues to be encouraging both in relation to its own services and the renewal of the Senior Officers Group - but we wait eagerly for further concrete developments.

2006 state budget - This will be a pre-election budget and so it is one where we could make some gains. I suggest that at our next meeting, we discuss priorities and strategies for the lead up to that budget.

A new member - Mindy and Chris have had a son named Solomon!! Congratulations, I'm sure, from all in the Coalition.

Next meeting

Please note that we have changed this to 18 May at 5.30, as our chairperson Julie will be away in June.

Thanks to you all for your continued enthusiasm and support. Any queries, comments or suggestions, please get back to me.

Coalition for Intellectual Disability and Criminal Justice
C/- NSW Council for Intellectual Disability
Level 1, 418A Elizabeth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9211 1611 or 1800 424 065 Fax: (02) 9211

The Coalition

The Coalition for Intellectual Disability and Criminal Justice has been formed to advocate for systemic and legislative change in the service and justice systems so that people with intellectual disabilities have their rights respected and protected and have access to the support services they need if they are to have a fair chance to avoid trouble with the law.

The Coalition so far comprises the organisations listed below and various concerned individuals who take an active role in the Coalition. New members are welcome.

The Coalition meets approximately quarterly to consider and act on priority issues. For further information about the Coalition, contact the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability at the address above or

Chiselling the Bars Forum

Tonight's forum was organised jointly by the Coalition and:
* The Law Society of NSW
* The Public Defender Office NSW
* The Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of NSW
* The Lawyers Reform Association

Forthcoming related events

Intellectual Disability and Forensic Issue, forum and workshop, 7 and 8 July 2005, Centre for Developmental Disability Studies, Ryde. For information, contact Leela on (02) 88780500

Disability and the Criminal Justice System:

Achievements and Challenges, conference in Melbourne 13-15 July 2005. Organised by Australian Community Support Organisation, Department of Justice Victoria
and Office of the Public Advocate. Contact or (03) 9509 7121)

An international congress on People with Disabilities and the Criminal Justice System in Brisbane in October 2006. This congress is being organised by Queensland Advocacy Inc in cooperation with the legal and disability sectors in Queensland and other states. Detail is available at Coalition for Intellectual Disability and Criminal Justice
C/- NSW Council for Intellectual Disability Level 1, 418A Elizabeth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010 Phone: (02) 9211 1611 or 1800 424 065 Fax: (02) 9211 2606.

February 9, 2005
Hon John Hatzistergos
Minister for Justice
Level 25
59-61 Goulbourn Street

Dear Minister,

People with intellectual disabilities and the criminal justice system

This Coalition has been formed to advocate for systemic and legislative change in the human services and justice systems so that people with intellectual disabilities have their rights respected and protected, and have access to the support services they need if they are to have a fair chance to avoid trouble with the law.

We enclose a copy of a letter we sent to the Premier following a major forum on this issue hosted by the Law Society of NSW.

Late last year, we met with Rhonda Booby, Acting Assistant Commissioner Offender Management, and other departmental officers who kindly attended a meeting of this Coalition to speak with us about progress with the new disability support wings (5, 6 and 18) at Long Bay and related matters.

We have been concerned that only one of the wings (Wing 18) is operational, notwithstanding that you officially opened the wings in May. At the same time, we see a high level of program staff as essential to the wings and would see little point in their being operational without this staff.

We were very concerned to hear at the meeting that very limited program input is occurring to date in Wing 18. However, we understand that some additional program staff are currently being recruited, both for the new wings and for the Disability Services Unit.

We applaud the work of the Disability Services Unit. We have very positive experience of it but, without a considerable expansion in its size, what it can do is very limited.

We have also felt that it was important that the new disability wings add to rather than replace the existing disability units in NSW gaols. We feel this is essential in view of the high number of inmates with intellectual disabilities and the need for flexibility to respond to incompatibility issues and other variables.

Another important issue is women prisoners who are not catered for by any disability unit. At the meeting, we were pleased to hear of a positive step here - enhancement funding being made available towards addressing the needs of women inmates with disabilities.

We look forward to getting follow up information on the above issues and shall keep in touch with the Department about them.

The meeting with Ms Booby was focused on programs for inmates. There are also fundamental issues for offenders with intellectual disabilities in transition from gaol and access to bonds, parole and other non-custodial orders.

These issues are particularly important for this group in view of their finding it very hard to readjust when they leave prison and being vulnerable and mistreated in the mainstream prison environment (NSW Sentencing Council, Abolishing Prison Sentences of Six Months or Less, Final Report 2004, section 4.7.3).

The Sentencing Council favoured the development of a system of "justice plans" whereby community based programs underpin bonds for offenders with intellectual disabilities.

These plans would be developed by Probation and Parole and officers of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. This kind of cooperation already occurs to some degree but there is considerable scope to enhance it, including through improvement in skills in the Probation and Parole Service to work with offenders with intellectual disabilities.

In relation to transition from gaol, we would be keen to see enhanced transitional support for inmates with intellectual disabilities and development of community based transitional accommodation arrangements.

We seek ongoing action on these issues both within the Department, and in cross agency forums.

Yours sincerely,
Julie Hoysted

By JusticeACTION posted 24 March 05


Chiselling the Bars

Our first forum "Gaol as Community Housing?" highlighted the barriers to diversionary and non-custodial options for offenders with intellectual disabilities. This sequel will concentrate on how to make the best of things when you are helping a person with an intellectual disability who is in trouble with the law.

Gaol as Community Housing?
A Forum on Intellectual Disability and Criminal Justice

People with Mental Retardation in the Criminal Justice System How many people with mental retardation are in the criminal justice system? Based on the 1990 census, an estimated 6.2 to 7.5 million people in the United States have mental retardation. Various studies have suggested between 2 percent to 10 percent of the prison population has mental retardation. Denkowski & Denkowski (1985) found that about 2 percent of all inmates in either state or federal prisons have mental retardation (about 14,000 people). Another study conducted by the state of New York found similar results: between 1.8 percent and 2.2 percent of people with mental retardation were imprisoned (Sundram, 1990). Residential programs that house offenders with mental retardation support another 12,500 people who have been convicted, or suspected of, committing a crime (Noble & Conley, 1992).

Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System
Violence and violent crime are commonly regarded by the public as the domain of the mentally ill (Australian Institute of Criminology, 1990). Public misconception about the true nature of mental illness, as distinct from personality disorder or behavioural disorder, frequently links extreme violence with mental illness. This misconception is enhanced by media depictions of the involvement of the 'schizophrenic' or 'psycho' in violent crime. The Victorian Government's health information website, BetterHealth Channel, gives the following content analysis: