David Biles Correctional Research Award 2020

Associate Professor Kelly Richards
Dr Jodi Death
Professor Kieran McCartan

QUT C4J members, Associate Professor Kelly Richards, Dr Jodi Death along with Professor Kieran McCartan (University of West England) received a Highly Commended Award for the David Biles Correctional Research Award which recognises an outstanding research report in the field of corrections.

Kelly, Jodi and Kieran submitted their research report tiled, ‘Community-based approaches to sexual offender reintegration’.

This major report is the primary output from a Category 1 research project funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), and conducted in partnership with Queensland Corrective Services, the Offenders’ Aid and Rehabilitation Service of South Australia, and the Bravehearts Foundation. The report significantly advances knowledge of the reintegration and correctional supervision of people who have sexually offended; in doing so it addresses a topic of increasing concern to correctional agencies across Australia. 

The research presented in the report contributes towards building an evidence base about community-based reintegration programs for high-risk sexual offenders. It explored how two key community-based reintegration programs seek to reduce sexual recidivism; and how the needs of victims/survivors of sexual violence can shape such programs. The two programs selected for the study were: 1) Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) in Adelaide, South Australia; and 2) the Cultural Mentoring Program (CMP) in Townsville, Queensland.

Contribution of the research

Positioning participants as experts on their own lives, and seeking to understand their own experiences of community-based reintegration resulted in a number of key findings that advance extant knowledge. Perhaps most significantly, the research demonstrates that:

  • in contrast to the existing understanding (eg Harris 2017, Maruna 2016), community-embedded programs such as CoSA and the CMP can influence the identity transformation of sexual offenders and foster desistance from sexual offending;
  • in particular, a focus on “retraditionalisation” can engage Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander sexual offenders and promote treatment readiness;
  • such programs can be a powerful mechanism for supporting sexual offenders to adhere to their conditions of release, and therefore assist correctional authorities meet their aim of community safety; and
  • victim/survivors view programs designed to address offenders’ reintegration in positive terms, seeing offenders’ needs as consonant with their own. The report broke new ground by illustrating how practices of reintegration and correctional supervision could be shaped to more effectively meet victim/survivors’ needs, and in doing so, bolster the legitimacy of correctional agencies in the eyes of the public. 

Overall, the report makes an exceptionally useful contribution to correctional authorities by highlighting the key role that community members (such as CoSA volunteers and Elders) can make in supporting their aim of successful offender reintegration.

A copy of the report can be found here

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