With the treatment of prisoners a key issue across the country following revelations from within the Northern Territory’s youth detention system, a group of people with acquired brain injuries (ABIs) and contact with the criminal justice system have cited a lack of housing and support for people with disability as the number one factor behind re-offending.

The Justice User Group, which was formed as part of the Enabling Justice Project (a three-year collaboration by Jesuit Social Services and RMIT’s Centre of Innovative Justice, funded through the Office of the Public Advocate), will today launch the Three Hots and a Cot advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

“More than 40 per cent of male prisoners and 30 per cent of female prisoners have an ABI, and this Australian-first project aims to address this shocking over-representation by allowing people with lived experiences of ABI and involvement with the justice system to advocate for systemic change,” says Julie Edwards, CEO Jesuit Social Services.

The Justice User Group has met regularly since mid-2015 to participate in discussions to raise issues and suggest ideas for improving the entire criminal justice system to better respond to the needs of people with an ABI.

A consultation paper which draws on the User Group’s input, was recently released by the Project partners.

“There have been two overwhelming themes to emerge from our conversations with the Justice User Group,” says Rob Hulls, Director RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice.

“One was that the criminal justice system fails to adequately respond to the needs of people with complex needs like ABI, and the other was that there was a lack of housing and resources available to this same group in the community.”

Ms Edwards says some User Group members described prison as a place of comfort compared to the challenges they face in the community, demonstrating that people with ABIs are not receiving the support they need to become productive members of society.

User Group members have worked with artists at Jesuit Social Services’ Artful Dodgers Studios to produce a series of postcards and posters highlighting the need for safe and secure housing for people with disabilities including ABI exiting prison.

Three Hots and a Cot will be launched by Martin Foley MP, Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, at Jesuit Social Services, 10 Dawson Street Brunswick, at 4pm.

Media enquiries: Kathryn Kernohan, 0409 901 248 or kathryn.kernohan@jss.org.au

The Enabling Justice Project, a collaboration between Jesuit Social Services and RMIT University’s Centre for Innovative Justice, is a three-year project that aims to address the overrepresentation of people with acquired brain injuries in the criminal justice system