Law Week 2016 Justice Journeys

Jessica

More than 100 students applied to participate in the 2016 Law Week job shadowing program. Forty-six were placed in a variety of roles across the justice sector. They shared their Justice Journeys with us in a range of creative formats including images, video and written content.

Jessica is in her second year of Law at the Queensland University of Technology. She has a particular interest in criminal law and justice, criminology and forensic psychology. Jessica spent the day at the Brisbane Central Probation and Parole Office with four other students.

My Justice Journeys experience was with the Brisbane Central Probation and Parole Office within the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

I was one of five students who undertook the placement, and I can speak on behalf of all of us when advocating the Justice Journeys program as both an insightful and intriguing experience.

In Queensland, Corrective Services is responsible for managing 25,000 people in prisons and on community-based orders. About 18,000 of those people are serving community-based orders – these people are supervised by probation or parole staff.

Our journey began at the Spring Hill office where we met David Bidgood, the District Manager for Probation and Parole, along with other supervisors and members of staff at the Brisbane Central District Office.

Following on from this, we spent most of our morning at the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court.  Our time spent in court enabled us to see firsthand how the probation and parole court process operates within the criminal justice system and exposed us to a wide variety of cases.

It was extremely interesting to see each Magistrate’s judicial discretion being exercised in real-time, and their reasoning behind each decision.  One aspect which particularly stood out to us was the notion that although the sentences handed down through the Courts need to be a deterrent not only for the offender but for society as a whole, there is also a simultaneous duty to help offenders rehabilitate back into society and to become more than their offence.  These conflicting duties involve evaluating a vast array of risk factors to determine what the most appropriate sentence is in the circumstances.  We were surprised at the amount of cases where no conviction was recorded, and generally the Magistrate would assess whether the recording of a conviction would impact on future education and employment prospects. It was refreshing to see the judiciary’s commitment towards infiltrating the cycle of offending at a meaningful and practical level.

In the afternoon we went back to the Spring Hill office where David facilitated a presentation about the role of probation and parole, including what the supervision and case management processes entail.  This provided us with a comprehensive understanding of the entire process and what happens outside the court room.  The supervision process begins with admission and induction which involves explaining to the offender the conditions of their order and a risk assessment to determine if there are any immediate risk factors such as substance use and abuse, mental health issues, financial, family or housing concerns. Following on from this, the assessment and planning stages pertain to a determination of what interventions will be appropriate, such as psychiatric programs, counselling or offence-specific programs and education.  Case management involves responding to potential reoffending risks through mechanisms such as compliance monitoring, offender management planning, levels of service and assessment outcomes, drug testing, reporting interviews, home visits, tailored supervision and surveillance monitoring.

The aspect of our journey which resonated with me the most was some of the wise words of David during his presentation.  He highlighted the notion that people are more than their offence and change in offenders is voluntary.  It takes time for change to occur, and personal integrity is the key to obtaining the respect of your clients.  The work that probation and parole officers engage in is often very challenging but it can also be extremely rewarding.

The Justice Journeys program reiterated to me the imperative nature of continuing to develop a strong ethical backbone and self-awareness throughout my studies which I can apply to my future employment endeavours as a legal professional.