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Helping offenders and their families

Offenders and their families are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in Australia.

  • In 2009, 30,000 people were held in Australian prisons, an increase of 39% in ten years.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are incarcerated at a rate 14 times higher than that of the general population and comprise about 24% of all people in Australian prisons (whilst making up only 2.5% of the population).
  • Prisoners' families suffer stress from stigma, social isolation, financial difficulties and changes in living arrangements as well as physical and mental health problems

Research highlights that offenders and ex-offenders are often impacted by broader patterns of exclusion and disadvantage, with histories of abuse, neglect, inadequate education, unemployment, mental health, drug and alcohol issues, homelessness and intellectual disability.

The families of prisoners and offenders play a critical role in making a difference. Best practice locally and internationally suggests that maintaining family connections help to break cycles of reoffending. It can also protect children of offenders from becoming offenders themselves.

Our aim is to improve the lives of offenders and their families and to contribute to improved community outcomes. By reducing rates of reoffending and diverting people from crime we can: make communities safer, stronger and more resilient; and help reduce the financial cost to society.

How Red Cross helps

In helping offenders, families and at-risk youth, Red Cross works to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Young people considered most at risk of imprisonment or detention gain the support necessary to stay out of detention.
  • People in prison are better able to manage their safety, health and well being and remain
    connected to their families and communities.
  • Families are better able to cope with the stress and stigma of having a family member incarcerated.
  • Following release from prison or juvenile detention, ex-offenders will gain improved opportunities, greater resilience, and have positive social connections.

Red Cross programs for offenders and family support

Prisoner Support Program
Peer support for new inmates and inmates in need of support. Currently provided in Tasmania.

See a story on ABC's 7.30 Report about the Prison Support Program and how it's reducing rates of violence and self harm in Risdon prison.

Visitor Support Centre
Personal and practical support for people visiting a family member or friend in prison. Currently provided in Victoria.

Nutrition education for inmates of the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison WA.

Training in how to prevent recognise and respond to health emergencies from alcohol and other drug use. Currently provided in ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, and WA. Read more about save-a-mate.

Melbourne Youth Justice Centre
Providing young offenders with positive social interaction through sport. Currently provided in Victoria.

Talk Out Loud
Mental health training course offered to young people in prison or detention centres. Currently provided in NSW, SA and TAS.

Step Out
Dedicated mentors working with young offenders - supporting them to access services, make plans for the future, and integrate back into the community. Currently provided in SA. Read more about Step Out.

See a story on ABC's 7.30 Report South Australia about an arts and performance initiative with Step Out participants.

Learn more about how Red Cross is helping offenders. Download the Red Cross brochure for offenders and their families.

Doing justice better

Our second Vulnerability Report calls for a complete rethink on how we do justice. Read the full report on Justice Reinvestment »

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