How Prison and Disability have Impacted me; Reflections and Advice from Lived Experience.

Justen Thomas

NSW Council for Intellectual Disability
Project Worker

Justen Thomas is a public speaker and advocate for people with disability who come into contact with the Justice System. Justen shares his experiences in order to improve life for others who experience the justice system and have a disability. Justen works as a speaker, workshop facilitator and video creator, sharing his story to help others. Justen has worked with the Council for Intellectual Disability and with the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. His aim is to “inspire younger generations”. Justen is active on social media, advocating for the rights of young people who have had contact with the criminal justice system.

Justen Thomas is a public speaker and advocate. He shares his experience of the criminal justice system as an Aboriginal man with cognitive disability, to create awareness and understanding of these intersecting experiences, and to change the system for the better. Justen’s work has contributed to his renewed sense of identity and his drive to develop skills as a peer mentor to support positive growth in other people.
Justen proposes to deliver a 15 minute oral presentation to share his experience so delegates can learn from his journey. Justen will provide an insight into his experience and offer advice to professionals on how to make a difference to people who have been in contact with the criminal justice system. Justen will share how he has created a new life for himself by accessing support and connecting with things that give meaning and purpose to his life.
Research shows the incidence of cognitive disability among people in contact with the criminal justice system is higher than in the general population(1). People with a disability face particular challenges when dealing with this system. Justen’s presentation will highlight how those with lived experience can create transformational learning experiences for services currently supporting people to re-build their lives and their identity after prison.

1. ‘People with Intellectual and Other Cognitive Disability in the Criminal Justice System’. Baldry, E. (2012) Sydney, UNSW. Pp.2-4. 2015 Young People in Custody Health Survey; Produced by Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Service & Juvenile Justice NSW; published 2017. P.80.