A payback with kindness

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Sir – The Aboriginal In-prison Restorative Justice Process has potential for reducing reoffending directly or indirectly.

Restorative justice addresses the harm of wrongdoing and initiates the repair and building of people and relationships.

One way of reducing reoffending is through in-prison programming but there is a significant lack of culturally appropriate programming.

To address the issue I worked with Aboriginal/Noongar elders and prisoners to design and deliver an Aboriginal in-prison restorative justice program in a regional prison.

This regional approach to justice has been guided by an Aboriginal perspective and adapted to provide a culturally constructive intervention to crime and wrongdoing.

An article published in The International Journal of Restorative Justice documents a range of culturally appropriate forms, such as story, art, music, play and ceremony (ritual) in an Aboriginal in-prison restorative justice program.

We examine how these forms are used to address the harm of wrongdoing and repair Aboriginal prisoners and their relationships.

The established approach to in-prison programs for Aboriginal prisoners is culturally inappropriate.

Our project demonstrates a different approach by enabling Aboriginal stakeholders, including Elders and prisoners, to become involved in providing culturally responsive programs within a prison to help prevent reoffending and provide effective reintegration into society.

As a response to the over-representation of Aboriginal prisoners in the WA prison system we aim to highlight the urgent need to evaluate conventional prison programming for Aboriginal prisoners.

The program also provides evidence of a culturally responsive restorative justice practice needed for rehabilitating and restoring Aboriginal prisoners to country and family.

Jane Anderson (pictured above)

Honorary Research Fellow, UWA’s School of Social Sciences.

Dr Anderson is also the chairperson of Doors Wide Open in Bunbury (pictured at top), supporting problematic drug users, families and friends.

“We also provide a place for friends and family to have access to resources and services to help them to cope with their loved ones’ addiction, and to have a greater understanding of their addiction,” says the group’s website.

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