Outcare works on prevention

OUTCARE has earned the reputation as one of the hardest working not-for-profit agencies in Western Australia for its efforts in the area of crime prevention.The organisation focuses on providing rehabilitation and support services for offenders, ex-offenders and their families, and broadly speaking cover three main areas – accommodation services, employ-ment and training, and counselling. Outcare had it origins 45 years ago, when the growing numbers of offenders being paroled and being given probation orders triggered the need for a service outside of the prison system to help offenders make the transition into the community. At the time there was only one welfare officer working in the entire prison system, meaning there was great scope for the vital work Outcare now undertakes. In 2006, the organisation has 55 staff and operates seven days a week. Outcare’s primary aim is to provide released offenders with the best opportunity for personal rehabilitation and to adjust to the expectations of the community. According to Outcare chief executive Peter Sir, the first month of release from prison is the most crucial for any offender.“ This initial period of release, or re-entry, is vital. The offender has a whole range of issues to deal with such as relationships, financial considerations, employment and accommodation,” he said. “In addition, this is also the time when temptations to fall back into offending behaviour can be at their greatest.” While there is strong emphasis on ex-offenders transitioning into the community, Outcare also focuses on other areas, such as pre-release counselling in prison, and working with the families of offenders and ex-offenders.When offenders near their release date, the organisation spends time with them in prison, assisting with employment and training opportunities, financial advice, accommodation if required, as well as day-to-day matters from which the inmates may have become detached. By providing positive rehabilitation and reintegration pre and post release Outcare seek to reduce the re-offending rate of its customers. The support of the families of those incarcerated is also a vital service, as Mr Sir points out. “The families of offenders serve a silent sentence and suffer many hardships as a result of crime within their family.” Supporting the families of offenders and ex-offenders maintains the stability and unity of the family, thus reducing the stresses on the family and the pressures to re-offend on release. The stability and morale of the prison population is greatly enhanced by the pre-release work of Outcare and through offering family support services. Another key initiative Outcare is currently working on is the Keeping Kids Out of Crime program, an in-school program to give children an insight into a life of crime and the realities of prison life. The program asks ex-prisoners to share their personal perspective on the impacts of criminal behaviour and targets children who are potentially at risk of falling into criminal activity. “The program is a reality test for kids at risk and shows the long-term impacts of life in jail, like poor health and financial standing. It also covers areas such as peer pressure and how to see the signs and avoid the situation,” Mr Sir said. The program, which receives support from the office of crime prevention, is presently seeking funding from the business community and local government so it can operate on full-time basis. Outcare also work with the busi-ness community to encourage busi-nesses to hire ex-offenders, through its Second Chance Business Register.

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