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        • » Healing in justice : an international study of Indigenous peoples' custodial experiences of prison rehabilitation programs and the impact on their journey from prison to community

Healing in justice : an international study of Indigenous peoples' custodial experiences of prison rehabilitation programs and the impact on their journey from prison to community

by Morseu-Diop N

Year 2010
City Brisbane
University University of Queensland
Number of pages 365
Thesis type Doctor of Philosophy


The implementation and delivery of prison rehabilitation programs is crucial to the successful restoration and reintegration of incarcerated people. However, the high recidivism rate nationwide is a clear indication that the current prison programs are not working. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that the core content of most prison-based programs are designed through Western lenses and facilitated predominantly by non-Indigenous program providers. This has greatly impacted on the progression of those Indigenous peoples who come from diverse cultural backgrounds, speak other languages and who have very limited numeracy and literacy levels, hence hindering their rehabilitation and restoration processes. Another factor of concern is the current retributive model of 'correcting' or prison-for-punishment approach as opposed to a more therapeutic model of 'restoring' or healing-in-justice approach. The aim of this study is to explore viable ways of achieving rehabilitation and restoration in an effort to address the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori individuals and families in the Queensland and New Zealand criminal justice systems. The study provides the opportunity for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori peoples who have been in custody to put forward their voices about the effectiveness or benefits of prison-based programs, and culturally-specific programs offered in Queensland and New Zealand prisons. It also opens up the debate about the importance of utilising culture-as-rehabilitation when dealing with Indigenous people in custody; hence, the voices of Indigenous program providers from Queensland and New Zealand have been instrumental in bringing this issue to the forefront. This research utilised qualitative Indigenous research methodologies and guided by an Indigenous epistemological framework. Whilst a set of informal interview questions guided the process; the use of mir atager or Indigenous yarning modalities was a core aspect of communication during the data collection. With the consent of all participants, the interviews were tape recorded verbatim and analysed thematically with the use of a culturally appropriate colour coding method. In conducting comparative cross-cultural research between Queensland and New Zealand, I was guided by the skills and expertise of an Indigenous research advisor, a cultural supervisor and language interpreters and advisers. Twenty-one Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori participants shared their stories. The findings arising from the yarnings have identified the cultural inappropriateness of mainstream prison programs and the lack of culturally-specific programs, particularly in the prisons in Queensland. The voices of Indigenous program providers in Queensland also highlighted the lack of Corrective Services recognition for, and accreditation of their programs. A key issue arising from the data is the lack of culturally relevant and gender-specific programs that addresses the special needs of Indigenous women in Queensland and New Zealand prisons. Also arising from the people's voices is the need for more pre-release and post-release support to assist in their journey from prison to community. In consideration of the endemic representation of Indigenous peoples in custody as noted above, the research strongly advocates for the funding and establishment of Indigenous-specific prison support services in the community and in the correctional centres to cater for the culturally-specific needs of Indigenous peoples in their journey from prison to community. This research documented the complex and multi-layered issues facing Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders and Māori peoples in the criminal justice system and calls for a more healing-in-justice approach utilising culture-as-rehabilitation methods to correcting the behaviours of Indigenous people who come before the criminal justice system. Last, but not least, the research respects and acknowledges the pain and suffering of those who have been victims of crime, and thereby it is envisaged that the findings of this research will assist in the creation of safer and whole communities.

Abstract by Morseu-Diop, N.



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Last updated: 4 September 2015
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