Rhonda a fourth year law student at James Cook University is passionate about helping people within her local community. The Bachelor of Laws student and her fellow JCU second year student, Sam visited the Townsville Probation and Parole Office and the Townsville Magistrates Court as part of their Justice Journey.
Sam and I are both second and fourth year James Cook University law students, respectively. We had a wonderful opportunity to participate in the Law Week 2016 - Justice Journeys experience.
We were offered a unique opportunity to job shadow at the Townsville Probation and Parole District Office and visit the Townsville Magistrates Court. We job shadowed the inspiring Probation Services Officer Lauren Brown and met with Magistrate Smid, who offered us words of encouragement and advice for our future legal careers.
Magistrate Smid explained that when starting out as new lawyers, it is very important not to be intimidated and provided advice on what we can to do to overcome our nerves. He told us to take control of the space – the lectern – to become confident advocates. The reality of four years of study coming to an end, quickly came home when Magistrate Smid said he is looking forward to seeing me at the bar in my home town of Ayr next year.
We were taken through the Townsville Probation and Parole Office where Lauren explained the primary role of probation is to supervise and provide case management for offenders in the community. The Magistrate may order an alternative to imprisonment by issuing immediate parole, a probation order, a community service order or both.
Community service may involve offenders assisting charitable organisations, such as the Salvation Army and Lifeline, and helping to prepare the show grounds for upcoming events.
Parole acts as a stop gap, so-to-speak, for giving a person a second chance. The Probation and Parole Officemay be able to assess and assist each person with the aim of breaking the cycle of reoffending.
Every person given parole, probation or a community service order are assessed to identify if they have problems with drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, housing or psychological issues. If directed, they get to participate in programs run by Queensland Corrective Services (part of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General) and external providers.
The programs include the Low Intensity Substance Intervention (LISI) Program, Substance Abuse Maintenance Intervention (SAMI), and other external programs such as Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Service (ATODS). These programs are held in Townsville and other regional areas such as Ayr and Charters Towers when numbers permit.
If an offender breaches an order, such as failing to do community service, Probation and Parole can make an application to the court to have the order revoked. One of the aims of probation is to try and encourage offenders to address the causes of their offending behaviour by participating in intervention programs.
Lauren said she derived her job satisfaction from helping people. She is well placed to do this having achieved a psychology degree from the University of Southern Queensland. Lauren told us that when offenders are first assessed by Probation and Parole she hopes the offenders on the programs do so well the staff are put out of a job. Lauren also spoke about seeing offenders change their mindset and attitude, which she knew would have a positive outcome for their families.
Sam and I would like to sincerely thank Magistrate Smid, Lauren Brown and the Probation and Parole District Office in Townsville for allowing us this invaluable opportunity. This experience has enabled us to learn and understand why probation is given, what it involves and what it hopes to achieve. As soon-to-be practising lawyers, this exposure has been invaluable to benefit our future clients and us.