Justice Housing Program found to reduce homelessness and reoffending factors

Australian Greens

The ACT Government’s Justice Housing Program (JHP) successfully addresses a significant gap in housing and support for people exiting prison and helps them transition back into the community, an Australian National University (ANU) report has found.

Since May 2020, the program has assisted 188 clients. In addition to affordable housing, JHP clients can also engage with services to create pathways into medium, long-term, or stable accommodation in public or community housing, or in the private rental market.

JHP clients are also provided with support for their mental and physical health, shopping, transport, clothing, alcohol and drug counselling, education and employment.

Key findings from the report found that access to support services for mental health, substance use, and housing security is helping break the cycle of recidivism.

Minister for Corrections and Justice Health Emma Davidson said the program has shown positive impacts to reduce recidivism by connecting people with housing and wrap-around supports.

“This program highlights that the right support for people reduces recidivism, keeping everyone in the community happier and safer,” Minister Davidson said.

“People leaving prison don’t always have a home or access to the right support for their needs. This makes it challenging to reintegrate in the community and harder to avoid engaging in harmful behaviours. The Justice Housing Program provides a secure home with additional support to prevent people cycling in and out of the system,” Minister Davidson said.

Feedback from program participants says the application process was easy and the support they received on release from custody is appreciated. Participants spoke of the JHP house they resided in as being “a comfortable space,” “homely” and “like a family home.” Each residence is furnished and comprises of three bedrooms and one bathroom.

“The report comes with several recommendations and I will work with stakeholders to make these changes and improve the system and how it works for people and our community.”

The JHP is part of the ACT Government’s Justice Reinvestment strategy. The joint initiative is led by the ACT’s Justice and Community Safety and Community Services directorates. The program’s 10 houses are located across Belconnen, the Inner North, Woden and Tuggeranong.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said that the program will help achieve the government’s target to reduce recidivism by 25% in 2025.

“JHP is a justice reinvestment approach which demonstrates that providing individuals leaving prison with stable housing and essential support networks helps them rebuild their lives and break the cycle of recidivism. This evaluation validates the program’s effectiveness as part of our Justice Reinvestment framework,” the Attorney-General said.

The program also supports people who would otherwise be sent to the Alexander Maconochie Centre on remand, with eligibility determined on a case-by-case basis.

First Nations people also have access to the Transitional Accommodation Program, a post-release housing program run by Yeddung Mura Aboriginal Corporation.

The ‘Process evaluation of the Justice Housing Program’ report was conducted by the ANU Centre for Social Research & Methods.

As stated by Bruno Aloisi, Acting Commissioner, ACT Corrective Services:

“The benefits of the JHP extend beyond putting a roof over someone’s head. Providing appropriately supported accommodation also enables access to a range of other services and supports to help address the broader underlying issues that influence offending behaviour.”

As stated by Professor Lorana Bartels, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods:

“The JHP appears to be meeting a range of needs, including accepting participants from two priority cohorts: women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our findings highlight the need for more intensive support for clients, to strengthen their pro-social relationships with family and friends, and increased opportunities for to participate in structured activities. Our process evaluation identified the need for improved data capture and record-keeping practices, to support any future evaluation.”

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