First year QUT law student Rose was fully immersed in prosecutions and sentences during her Justice Journey at Cleveland Magistrates Court and then visiting community service sites in Redlands.
On Tuesday, 17 May I had the pleasure of meeting and shadowing the lovely employees of the Redlands division of Queensland Corrective Services (QCS). My Law Week experience was led by Katrina, the District Manager of Redlands Probation and Parole and a Senior Case Manager named Kirsten.
We began the day at the Cleveland Magistrates Court where I witnessed Magistrate Kennedy deal with adjournments, applications for bail, fines and the like. It was saddening to see that the majority of cases involved drug offences and the accused persons were more likely than not to have drug or alcohol dependency. This was reflected in the orders handed down by Magistrate Kennedy—most people were sent to, or had been previously sent to, drug and alcohol diversion programs. However, when these programs didn’t work, or when the accused refused to go, other pathways had to be considered.
At multiple points during the day, Magistrate Kennedy stopped court proceedings to explain to the group of school children on excursion what was happening and why he handed down the sentences that he did. It was clear to see that he really did want the people that came before him to put themselves back on the right path in life and he tailored each person’s sentence in order to provide them with the best chance of rehabilitation. Some of the sentences included suspended sentences, drug and alcohol diversion programs, community service and probation.
At one point, Magistrate Kennedy asked Ryan, a Senior Case Manager of QCS, to interview a man in order to decide if probation would be a suitable option for him. I was lucky enough to be able to leave the court at this point and sit in on this interview, which involved discussing the basics of probation and how specific elements would be tailored to suit the needs of the man to assist in his rehabilitation. By witnessing their interactions with members of the community, it was obvious that the employees of QCS are deeply invested in the lives of the people that they help. They really do want them to be successful in their rehabilitation, and they provide support (especially to the younger probationers), which these people clearly respond to.
Our day ended with a few community service site visits around Redlands. The first stop was an aged care home, where the people participating in community service were working in the kitchens. It was surprising to witness a positive working environment, which was made so by the probationers themselves. The next stop was the beautiful site of a Japanese mission—if I was serving a community service order that is where I would want to be!
It was clear to see that the types of community service that QCS organises is beneficial to both the probationers and the wider community and the work being done definitely leaves a positive mark. Before we had left for court earlier in the day, Kirsten had also explained the process of ‘in-house’ community service, whereby specific groups of people on probation (for example, sex offenders or people with disabilities), complete their community service within the QCS office. At the moment, these people are weaving recycled plastic bags to make ground covers, similar to tarps, to provide homeless people with a softer, warmer place to sleep. It was wonderful to see people on community service spending their time making something that would have a really positive impact on people’s lives.
Spending a day with QCS was an invaluable experience, one that has confirmed my passion for justice and the law. Seeing people who are living lives so differently to mine was definitely eye-opening, and has made me appreciate where I have come from and the continual opportunities and support that I have had. I hope that one day I can help make a better life for these people, and that I can contribute something significant to the criminal justice system.