As part of our integrated services, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre is home to a branch of Community Corrections Services (CCS).
The team supervises people who are:
- Sentenced by the Magistrates’ Court, County Court or Supreme Court to community-based disposition (commonly known as a community-based order).
- On parole
When managing people on community-based orders, Community corrections officers (CCOs) are responsible for ensuring their clients comply with the conditions of their orders. Conditions may include participating in:
- appropriate educational programs
- community work
- Treatment programs
As the NJC only serves the City of Yarra, the clients of the CCS team working at the centre must reside in the Yarra.
Assessment – part of the groundwork for success
The CCOs assess an accused person’s suitability for a community-based order.
This rigorous assessment process establishes the person’s family and social situation, employment status, work history, mental health, substance use and history, as well as their motivation to turn their lives around.
Assessment enables the NJC and Corrections to ensure appropriate actions are in place to address these issues.
When assessing an accused person’s suitability to undertake a community-based sentence, the CCO may also identify issues previously unknown to the court and which may adversely affect the person’s ability to comply with their order.
In these instances — and unique to NJC’s practices — the CCO will recommend to the Court that sentencing is deferred until the issues are addressed. Again, this gives people greater chance of successfully completing their orders.
The NJC lays the groundwork required for people to successfully complete their community-based orders by addressing underlying causes of offending as early as possible.
This starts with clients engaging with the treatment and assistance services that work at the centre.
Client Services address the psycho-social conditions that contribute to offending behaviour, such as drug and alcohol dependencies and complex mental health issues.
As appropriate, the Magistrate and legal representatives make pre-sentence referrals to Client Services, so that clients are treated as soon as possible.
This groundwork sets up the clients for transition onto a Community Correction Order and means CCS case managers understand any risks and needs before the order commences.
Collaboration between Client Services and CCS ensures there is a strong foundation from the onset of the order.
Importantly, case managers have the benefit of “the NJC”. That is, clients have access to financial, housing, training and education, mental health and legal services.
Case managers also have the benefit of secondary consultation with Alcohol & Other Drug clinicians and other professionals should the client need further assistance.
Continuity of care
The level of support case managers give to clients on community-based orders should not be underestimated.
Case managers are responsible for coordinating clients’ transitions and the ongoing management of the transition from Client Services to the locally-based treatment services in our jurisdiction.
The centre’s court also has a level of oversight and support, which happens through Judicial Monitoring, a practice pioneered at this centre.
Judicial Monitoring is a meeting between the Magistrate, case manager, and client at which the Magistrate reviews the client’s progress, usually concerning the personal circumstances and order participation.
If progressing well, the meeting gives the Magistrate a chance to affirm positive progress. In the event the client needs additional assistance, the Magistrate can refer the client to other interventions at the centre, such as a Problem Solving Meeting (see the fact sheet on this).
Judicial Monitoring occurs frequently, or as things progress well, the intervention will taper off.
The CCOs also monitor clients’ well-being and rates of compliance through regular updates with clients’ treatment providers, so responses to issues can happen quickly.
The level of involvement in clients’ lives changes throughout the duration of an order.
At the beginning, CCOs meet clients frequently, but as clients become more stable and the right conditions are in place, CCOs reduce the contact hours.
Long-term continuity of care
At the end of a successfully completed community-based order, the Court discharges the matter.
However, clients with such complex issues may continue receive support through the centre’s Client Services.