Work began on devising and developing the Miranda Project, a recommendation of the Women’s Advisory Council of NSW Corrective Services, in mid-2015. Through the generous and energetic support of individuals and agencies, the Project is now a reality within the extensive and respected fold of the Community Restorative Centre.
In our last newsletter of the year I have ensured that we have included reports on our progress to date and urge you to remember those women who are currently building their resilience and who may be, like our client Sophie, spending Christmas in a cheap hotel on her own. She has just been released but counts herself lucky to be off the streets. Let’s hope that, in twelve months, we can report that Sophie has successfully completed the Program, has appropriate housing and is in stable employment. It is an ambitious program but, with support, energy and passion, we will make that aspiration a reality.
Director, Miranda Project
Facts & Figures
2004-2014, number of women in custody in Australia rose 55% compared with 39% for males (ABS Prisoners in Australia 2014).
Cost of a prisoner in NSW per day is $237.34; $86 630 per annum (Productivity Commission Review of Government Services 2015).
38% of women entering custody were Aboriginal (Barbara & Neto Comparative Profiling of Female Inmates Corrective Services 2014).
An Evaluation Committee has been established and met for the first time on Monday 5 December. Members are Dr Ruth McCausland, Research Associate UNSW, Dr Kath McFarlane, Centre for Law and Justice Charles Sturt University, Margaret Crowley, newly appointed Director, Lou's Place and Deirdre Hyslop, Miranda Project Director. Issues concerning histories of out of home care, contact with children and their caring arrangements as well as other care responsibilities are to be added to the extensive database developed for the Miranda Project. Ethics applications will be lodged with key agencies. The evaluation will cover formative as well as outcome information, include case studies and life course analyses. It is an aim of the Project to encourage and build capacity among government agencies to share data.
Consultation with Aboriginal organisations and representatives continues with a range of activities planned for 2017. These include a follow-up meeting with Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation in Blackett, working with the Aboriginal Strategy and Planning Unit CSNSW, meeting with Elders in Bathurst and consultation on program and resource material.
Each Miranda Program participant is offered a notebook to write in or draw, in relation to her activities and participation in the project. The notebooks have been kindly donated by women attending the Miranda Program Launch in September and by women who have learnt of the Project and are keen to help. The notebooks were very gratefully received and clients have been very happy to choose one.
The Miranda Program - A Progress Report
Since its launch in September, the Miranda Program has received 15 referrals and enquiries about potential referrals. Currently four clients are linked with two Centres participating in the Pilot Program.
Referrals have been received from Legal Aid and private legal representatives including a private barrister, and two came as a result of the judge's and magistrate's recommendations. Referrals have also been received from Community Corrections, an AOD counsellor in the community, a private psychologist, Bail Assessment Officers and a mum of a woman in prison.
We have held several meetings with key stakeholders both in Sydney and in Bathurst, all of which have been positive and have helped to further inform the direction of the Program, particularly in terms of engaging the Aboriginal community.
We have two key events planned for early in the new year:
A meeting with legal services supporting the Central West Women’s Health Centre in Bathurst in order to ensure that the diverse legal needs of participants can be met by legal services in the area;
A day of skill enhancement for pilot sites which will join us in a visit to a women's prison where we will consult the Inmate Development Committees about their needs and how services can better support them post release. The day will focus on the specific issues of working with women in the criminal justice system, the complexity of their needs, recognising issues of engagement by the women and responsivity by the services.
Please note that engagement in the Miranda Program is voluntary. At this stage of the pilot, whilst we are accepting referrals for women on legal orders, we're not accepting women where participation in the Miranda Program is a condition of their order.
During the week encompassing Christmas and the New Year when the pilot sites are closed, there will be a skeleton Miranda Project staff on call.
A Client's Story
Helen was referred by her Community Corrections Officer to the Miranda Program for support.
Helen is a mum of two children, both removed at birth and currently living in separate, out of home care placements. It is her intention to do all she can to have them restored to her care.
Having spent time in juvenile detention and entered prison, on remand, on two occasions, she is currently on bail awaiting her upcoming hearing as well as being on a methadone program. She has fractured relationships with her family, the majority of whom do not reside in Sydney.
Helen has identified her goals as being:
The restoration of her children into her care
To be a better role model for her children
To find stable housing and then get a job
Engage in counselling to address her underlying issues.
Soon after commencing on the Miranda Program, her determination and resilience stood out. Asking for support does not come easily for her, however, to her credit, she has remained engaged with the Miranda Program and is very appreciative of the support and understanding provided to her. She is still getting used to the idea that there is 'no catch', that it is her decision to engage in the Program and that it is purely about women supporting women. They just want to see her do well, whatever that means for her.
The employment program for women with a criminal record.
As announced in our September newsletter, we have begun work on developing another pillar of the Miranda Project, the Employment Options. We are proceeding to build a service with the ultimate aim of opening a bespoke employment agency for women with a criminal record. We are commencing to build partnerships with potential employers and have already held one focus group with women currently in custody who will be seeking employment on release. We have several other focus groups planned.
Listen to a BBC broadcast here where women are interviewed on the impact a tailored employment project has made on their lives post-release and be inspired.
Through our connection with Baroness Jean Corston, we have been in correspondence with Jocelyn Hillman OBE, Founder and Chief Executive, Working Chance, Restorative Recruitment. Working Chance was established in London in 2007 and is very similar to the model we have outlined for Miranda’s employment program. Jocelyn has offered to assist us in our own development.
We are currently compiling a data base of people who are keen to volunteer with the Miranda Project. We are looking for people with a passion for improving the lives of marginalised women who need assistance to build/rebuild their place in the community. There will be roles for people who are keen to support women through the court process, provide transport to meet appointments, work with women preparing for employment or just be a compassionate friend. A list of possible roles will be featured in our February newsletter and on our website. If you are interested in volunteering with the Miranda Project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about the skills and/or experience you could contribute. This will help us compile a realistic set of volunteer roles.
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