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Breaking the Cycle: Impact in 2020

People with experience of incarceration have some of the worst health, economic and social outcomes of all Australians.

We know that people with a criminal record are often significantly disadvantaged before their conviction. They may have been victims of abuse or neglect, suffered mental health issues or substance addiction, experienced homelessness or simply fell through the cracks of a system that is stretched.

The lack of support, stability, education, work experience and employment opportunities soon spiral into a cycle that is hard to break, and clearly illustrated by Australia’s recidivism rates. Nearly half of the people released from prison will reoffend and return within two years.

This is not a challenge that is unique to Queensland, or even Australia. The opportunities lie in rehabilitation and reintegration.

Earlier this year, the Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC) released its findings on imprisonment and recidivism in Queensland. Following engagement with more than 600 stakeholders (including a submission from the workRestart team), QPC outlined a number of recommendations to improve outcomes, keep communities safe and reduce costs.

Importantly, QPC concluded that better efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners would reduce recidivism.

We know this to be true because this is how workRestart breaks the cycle.

As a social enterprise, we believe it’s important to measure and report on our impact. We also believe it’s important to acknowledge these are complex problems, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Breaking the cycle isn’t easy, but we’re committed to giving people every opportunity to do so.

Measuring Our Impact

Each year, we measure the workRestart social impact. We aim to halve the recidivism rates through our programs. This means that over a two-year period, we aim to deliver a recidivism rate of less than 20%.

In 2018 and 2019, we reduced recidivism by more than 40% across all three workRestart programs – The Grid, ReBoot Digital and our Manufacturing Industry Hub. The recidivism rates for our programs were less than 8%, well below our goal of 20% which is a credit to our cohort and our team.

It’s important to us, and to our community, that we are transparent with our progress.

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the prison system, particularly given restrictions placed on visitation and employment on the inside. In Queensland, a number of our programs were suspended during lockdown, and the uncertainty continues - as it does for many industries.

One of the challenges of working within the prison system is working without technology. While many teams and businesses have transitioned to digital and remote ways of working, this is not a reality for our workplaces.

Whilst we have continued to work hard behind the scenes, COVID-19 has meant we haven’t been able to deliver programs and support as we’d originally envisioned. We expect this will impact our efforts in 2020, and we will be transparent about our impact as we progress.

But impact is more than just numbers.

Whilst we strive to reduce the rate of recidivism, we also strive to positively impact people’s lives – and sometimes the best measure isn’t a number, but a word. We also measure our impact by asking the people we set out to empower how they feel about the program and their progress.

Here’s what they’ve had to say:

"I'm positive, I'm adaptable. I can't be beaten by this - no way. I am just so glad this is here. It's developing ways to truly rehabilitate and reform people and I hope the rest of Queensland and the country can do that too."

“It’s good to give people hope and purpose to start the things they love and get them thinking of the endless possibilities of what they can achieve.”

“Working at The Grid allows us to contribute ideas and be treated like human beings and not a production line.”

“It’s realistic. I’m thankful for these skills I’ve gained. I feel hopeful that I have a chance to better my life instead of going back to a life of crime.”

“It has shown me that I can stay employed and I hope to be employed when I get out and hold a job. It has helped me out in so many ways I can’t thank you enough.”

"It has made me a different person, I have a much clearer state of mind than I had when I was on the outside. I know what I want to do now and I am not coming back."

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