Holistic AOD Work After Prison and Building Pathways into the Community: A Panel Discussion Featuring CRC Staff with both Professional Expertise and Lived Experience of the Criminal Justice System.

This panel discussion will showcase the work of the Community Restorative Centre’s AOD outreach team and explore the experience and specialist expertise of staff who also have lived experience of the criminal justice system. Employing people in a professional capacity who have themselves experienced imprisonment and/or workforce discrimination on the basis of criminal records is now a deliberate service delivery strategy at CRC. This strategy recognises the enormous value of combining both professional expertise with the expertise acquired through lived experience. The AOD service at CRC has won multiple awards in NSW for its holistic approach to working with populations after prison, including the 2018 NSW Association for Alcohol and other Drugs ‘Excellence in Treatment’ award. This panel discussion will overview the AOD team’s work in and out of prisons, explore ‘what works’ when supporting people with multiple and complex support needs after prison, and also discuss what it means for men and women leaving custody to have the support of someone who has also experienced incarceration. Particular attention will be paid to the development of an identity outside of the criminal justice system for populations who have frequently spent much of their lives being managed inside prisons. Featuring the candid, up-front and experienced group of AOD workers, this panel will be hosted by AOD Transition team Manager Paul Hardy, and aims to stimulate thought and discussion about the role of people with lived experience and the challenges faced by people with multiple support needs (including alcohol and other drug issues) when they leave prison.

Paul Hardy

Community Restorative Centre
Manager AOD

This panel discussion will feature staff from the highly experienced and skilled transitional AOD team, including staff who combine professional expertise with lived experience of incarceration.

Helen Ascott

Community Restorative Centre
Transition Worker ERS (Extended Reintegration Service)

Helen has been working for the community Restorative Centre (CRC) for nearly 3yrs, working across different teams in the organisation and is currently working as a transition worker on the extended reintegrate service, which assists men and women involved in the criminal justice system, whom have persistent mental health and or cognitive impairments, have a history of AOD use and are facing homelessness once released from custody. Prior to working for CRC Helen has been working with the same client group in a residential program for male high risk offenders. Helen has a cert 4 and diploma in community services and 7yrs experience working with people being released from custody and is a passion advocate for transitioning people into the community from custody.
Helen has a substantial history of substance use and has been in recovery and abstinent from AOD for nearly 8yrs. Helen herself was involved in the criminal justice system in her early 20s, spending brief spells in prison for drug related crimes in the UK. Helen was inspired to work in the industry having been supported through her early recovery by a social worker at a women’s shelter where she was staying. This workers support was the catalyst for assisting her out of homelessness and into public housing for the first time. Having the security of housing enabled Helen to get her life on track, allowing her to concentrate on staying drug free, studying and eventually entering the work force.

Stefanie Wong

Community Restorative Centre
Transition Worker AOD

Stef has worked at CRC since 2017 when the AOD team began piloting the remand project and is still currently working with clients in custody who are on remand. She has a counselling and Justice background, mainly in the youth and AOD sectors. Stef has experience in government roles at Juvenile Justice, both within the Juvenile Justice Centres and as a counsellor in the community, and has worked within the AOD field and SHS services in non-government organisations. Stef also draws on her education and experience in the Netherlands, as well as her peers from her Masters in Forensic Mental Health to assist in this project.

Chris Sheppard

Community Restorative Centre
Transition Worker AOD

Chris Sheppard has worked in the community services sector for 3 years, starting as a student with the Community Restorative Centre in 2016 on placement for a cert4 in community services. Chris stayed on with CRC as a volunteer until his second student placement in 2017 (completing a diploma in Community Services). Chris started part time work with CRC in January 2018. Chris is passionate about supporting people, men, women and women with children and their families and loved ones who have been affected by the criminal justice system to make pathways outside of the criminal justice system and to live more meaningful lives. Chris also has his own lived experience with growing up in a violent home filled with domestic violence and abuse, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, severe mental health issues and the criminal justice system. Chris started using drugs and alcohol when he was 15 and has spent over 10 years living as a homeless person and has also been in prison a few times. As an AOD worker with CRC Chris is able to use his lived experience to help understand how trauma can affect peoples lives as well as the profound impact the justice system can have on a person. Chris says that as a person with lived experience he is able to draw on how difficult it is being in custody, as well as how difficult being released from custody can be.

Justin Field

Community Restorative Centre
Transition Worker AOD

Justin has been working with CRC for 18 months with the AOD transition team, with a focus on supporting Aboriginal men and women on release from custody. Prior to CRC Justin has worked in other AOD community settings, and has also been involved in various forms of volunteer work for people struggling with addiction. Justin is passionate about supporting people who are trying to deal with AOD issues and working with people who are wanting to find ways to live outside of the criminal justice system. Justin is also really interested in the way in which people with lived experience are able to support people leaving custody, and what it means to be understood by somebody who has also experienced a justice system from the inside.

Tara Morrison

Community Restorative Centre (CRC)

Tara Morrison has been with CRC for close to a year, and is currently working as part of the AOD transition team. Prior to CRC Tara has worked with vulnerable populations in a variety of roles. Tara is passionate about supporting people struggling with alcohol and other drugs, and supporting women with children, and people who have lived with complex trauma. She is focused on assisting people to see that there are ways to live outside of the criminal justice system. Tara is also very interested in developing ways to work with Indigenous clients that are culturally meaningful and appropriate