Young people are mentored to transition from a juvenile justice centre back into the community

Mentoring offers young people in the criminal justice system a supportive, caring and non-judgmental relationship with a caring adult. SHINE for Kids has had great success with our Community Mentoring and we’ve extended this to youth in juvenile justice.

Young people leaving the juvenile justice system may be at risk of reoffending; studies have shown that its incidence is dependent on the degree of support received by the young people upon leaving a centre. SHINE for Kids aims to reduce the recidivism rates of young offenders by linking detainees with a mentor to assist them through their transitional period and to promote attitudinal change within the mentee.

Many of the young people in the program have suffered severe childhood neglect and abuse and suffer from mental health issues, and poor social and interpersonal skills, and are often unable to form trusting relationships with an adult. In ‘Stand As One’, each inmate is matched with a mentor 4–6 months prior to release. The foundation of a pre-formed trusting relationship enables better long-term outcomes as the mentee is more open to support from his mentor as he adjusts to life back in the community.

The ‘Stand as One’ mentors undergo stringent recruitment and intensive training to prepare them for supporting their mentees. The mentors also bring with them a wide variety of personal qualities and experiences to the mentoring relationships, assisting the mentees to meet their personal goals within the community. Our mentors have attended a variety of courses relating to working with young vulnerable people such as suicide prevention, casework and identifying children and young people at risk of harm. With a more informed understanding of the issues that young people struggle with, they can establish more realistic and achievable goals for their mentee.

Intensive case management is also a component of the program. Home visits are undertaken by the project worker prior to the detainee being released from custody to assess the needs of the family and ensure a supported transition for the detainee back into the family home. The project worker also attends all the discharge case conferences and works very closely with the Juvenile Justice officers at the time of release and during their parole.

In 2014 one ‘Stand as One’ mentee submitted a number of artworks for the WUPA Aboriginal Art Exhibition, shown at venues across the Hunter Valley. He was guest speaker at a SHINE for Kids fundraiser ‘Inspiring Australia’, where he described his upbringing and the background to his incarceration. He thanked SHINE for Kids for the support our program has provided him.

Case study: Choosing to avoid a problematic family environment

Leo*, a young man serving 5 years had been raised by parents with drug addictions who were in and out of jail.

From a very young age, Leo had to steal to survive to support himself and his little sister, but this escalated over the years and led to substance abuse and criminal activities.

Leo was reclassified for a period of 12 months in Kariong detention and eventually returned to Frank Baxter, where he has since been placed on the ‘Stand As One’ program. With some hard work and positive people around him, Leo now shows maturity, respect and leadership skills. He has decided not return to his family environment upon release, instead wishing to relocate to the Central Coast.