This project aims to provide pathways out of the justice system for socially and economically disadvantaged and vulnerable women who are charged with criminal offences, providing them with targeted, specialist in-house case-management services to address the causes of their offending and disadvantage. The case-management services target interlinked issues specific to women facing criminal charges including family violence trauma, victimisation, mental health issues, homelessness and alcohol and other drug addiction.
LACW’s in-house case-managers support women who are in or at risk of entering the criminal legal system, addressing issues that place them at risk of further criminalisation and imprisonment, with a focus on family violence trauma.
Both legal and non-legal needs are identified, and structured case-management provided through regular meetings and outreach to facilitate referrals to specialist services including victim support, housing, drug and alcohol and mental health services. The case managers oversee the provision of support, ensuring the client’s needs are addressed in a holistic way, reducing the likelihood they will cycle into reoffending and imprisonment, and providing pathways out of the justice system. A key benefit of in-house case management is our clients’ enhanced chances of being granted and succeeding on bail. This helps women to retain stability in housing and other therapeutic supports to ameliorate the risk of receiving a jail term.
The broad objectives of this project are to address the growing numbers of women cycling in and out of prison, to improve access to support services that will address the causes of women's criminalisation and imprisonment, and to reduce the likelihood that women will reoffend.
The immediate aims of the project are:
While mainstream support services, for example family violence hubs, provide support to victims of violence generally, they do not have a particular focus on criminalised women. Many of LACW's clients have not been accessing adequate supports elsewhere, thus their point of intersection with the justice system becomes a crucial opportunity for intervention. Providing case-management in-house, with a specialist focus on the criminogenic factors driving women's contact with the justice system, helps to ensure ongoing engagement, and can facilitate linkages with existing services that clients have not been able to access independently.
To measure and evaluate the anticipated outcomes, LACW will:
The information collected above will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the project in relation to:
Established in 2016, LACW is a not-for-profit, community legal centre in Victoria that provides a holistic, client-centred and wrap-around approach to assisting women in the criminal legal system. Alongside legal advice and representation, we provide an integrated case management and social work team that works with women to address the causes of their criminalisation and imprisonment.
LACW’s vision is that any woman, regardless of means, can access exceptional legal and support services that will help create meaningful change in her life.
LACW’s mission is to provide pathways out of the justice system for vulnerable women by providing ingegrated legal and case management support to address the causes of women’s disadvantage and criminalisation.
The vulnerabilities faced by women who are at risk of criminal justice involvement are complex and intersecting, and include previous victimisation, in particular family violence, homelessness and physical and mental health issues, each of which require a gender-specific approach that takes into account the woman’s different health and well-being needs, including in many cases their experiences of family violence and status as a carer.
LACW’s integrated practice model increases access to justice and facilitates access to services that address the underlying vulnerabilities that have led to women’s involvement in the criminal legal system in the first place.