Womenís Justice Network works with women and girls affected by the criminal justice system, through a gender specific mentoring programme, where they train volunteer women mentors from the community and match them with women who are exiting custody, or girls involved in juvenile justice, to provide a non-judgmental relationship and practical support.
The mentoring programme encourages women and girls to make choices for a better future and has shown great results in reducing the likelihood a woman/girl will return to custody, compared to the general female prison population.
The Womenís Justice Network (WJN) mentoring programme cannot currently meet the demand for the women who seek to use the service. They need to train more volunteer mentors to be matched with women and female youth who are exiting custody and seeking to use the service.
To deliver their mentoring programme WJN recruit, interview and train volunteer women mentors from the community to be able to provide gender responsive social support to women exiting custody.
Mentors are trained in groups of approximately 15-20, and are then matched with a woman exiting custody to commence a mentoring relationship. Mentors provide their mentees with social support, assistance with a range of practical matters, and provide a positive role model to the women who engage in the programme.
Womenís Justice Network social workers provide case management support to the women exiting custody as well as support to our trained mentors, and provide a range of assistance that may include assisting with housing, accommodation, employment opportunities or referrals to other relevant support services.
How the grant will be used
It is expected that a grant of $2,000 will allow a group of 15-20 mentors to be trained. Training is carried out over a series of weekends to prepare them to be matched with a woman exiting custody. Following training those mentors will be matched with women on WJNís waiting list and will then walk alongside a woman exiting custody to support them for a period of 12 months. Many mentoring relationships continue beyond this time as friendships form between mentor and mentee.
WJN research demonstrates that women who participate in the mentoring programme have a significantly reduced likelihood of returning to custody compared to women in the general prison population.
The last evaluation of WJN’s mentoring programme found that 93% of women who participated in the mentoring programme had not returned to prison within 12 months compared to the latest released statistics on the general recidivism rate in NSW for women that are around 40% and higher for girls at 45%.
The mentors who are trained by WJN agree to participate in a mentoring relationship of 12 months i.e. after being trained they will be matched with a women exiting prison and commence a relationship that will formally go for around 12 months under WJN’s programme.
The average length of mentoring relationship is 15 months, when the mentoring “match” exits from WJN’s programme. However in many cases, the relationship between mentor and mentee continues outside of WJN’s programme well beyond this time providing additional support to the women who have exited prison. In addition, there are a number of mentors that then go on to mentor a second or even third woman, so remain in the programme for multiple years. WJN also have some very experienced superstar mentors who have been with them for 5/6 years and have mentored an even higher number of individual women over that time.
UCF directors were pleased to award a $2,000 grant to further this important work.