WAM is a community organisation creating positive connections between screened and trained volunteer mentors and vulnerable women who are involved in the justice system. Through our proven mentoring relationship model, we build capacity, develop life skills and coping strategies to support women to address the issues underlying their offending.
This project will enable us to extend and expand the program to support vulnerable women in the Broadmeadows, Sunshine, Ringwood, Moorabbin and Dandenong court areas to meet the demand for women in the early stages of contact with the criminal justice system. Through the provision of a formal mentoring relationship, women will be able to:
• connect with services in their community to address their legal issues and the complex vulnerabilities which led to their criminalisation
• overcome barriers to community engagement and inclusion through the development of pro-social connections, and
• reduce the likelihood of vulnerable women being caught up in an overburdened justice system
As a consequence of police attention being diverted to manage issues relating to the health pandemic, the crime rate has actually fallen. Yet our prisons are full, and the biggest proportional increase is the number of women incarcerated and on remand. Women who, overwhelmingly, present with backgrounds of significant social and economic disadvantage, and with little access to support.
1. Support criminalised women to navigate and engage with local services to address their legal issues and better manage their vulnerabilities to reduce future contact with the criminal justice system. Target audience will report on access to relevant support services; reoffending; ability to respond to vulnerabilities. Data collected through pre- and post- program assessment interviews.
2. Contribute to an evidence base of gendered pathways to the justice system, and gain a deeper understanding how criminalised women negotiate and build an identity away from the justice system. Target audience will participate in individual consultations, and key findings will be collated and presented to stakeholders, in particular State Government, policy advisers and funders.
3. Develop the skills and capabilities of volunteer mentors to effectively fulfil their role. Mentors will participate in training and ongoing professional development to build their knowledge and skills. Target audience will provide feedback post-training, and attendance will also be recorded.
WAM’s mission is to not only keep women out of the justice system, but to influence justice reinvestment to directly support women in desistance (not reoffending). Through enabling criminalised women to connect with a range of legal and social services, we aim to advocate for more diversionary programs that build capacity and pro social connections outside of the justice system to support community integration and inclusion.
Part of our advocacy work also brings the experiences of program participants to the mainstream to develop broader community support and understanding of the pathways of vulnerable women into the justice system, as well as capture their stories to contribute to an evidence base that supports early intervention and diversion programs.
Our consultations with program participants assists us to collect and share the stories and lived experience of criminalised women to create awareness in the broader public of gendered pathways to the justice system. We will utilise platforms such as justice conferences, Law Week, or similar public events, as well as share case studies through our stakeholder newsletters and present them to relevant government officials, ministers, advisers and policy makers.