Research project launches to keep young people out of jail

A group of Canberra researchers returned to Cowra during the recent Festival weekend to launch their research project looking for ways to stop people, particularly young people, from ending up in jail.

After beginning the ethics, community consultation and approval process in March last year, the team from the Australian National University (ANU), the team utilised the International Festival of Understanding to start the interview recruitment process.

Research Fellow, Dr Jill Guthrie said the response from Cowra has already been a positive one.

"We understand we're just kicking this off but it's definitely warming up," she said.

Setting up a stall at the festival, Dr Guthrie said flyers highlighting their research and the proposed interviews with young people were well-received.

"We gave flyers to several community representatives, including Tim, Janine and Shane at the Police Citizens Youth Club, who we will be working closely with. We've already conducted two interviews from people who visited the stall," she said.

"We had quite a lot of interest and people indicating they will call; we also expect that young people will tell each other and it will snowball from there."

Dr Guthrie said the upcoming national Youth Week, held April 4-13 will also provide a chance for the team to "encourage conversations" with young people on their experiences of living in Cowra and what makes Cowra 'work' or 'not work' for them, as well as their understanding and experience of the criminal justice system.

While several service providers, organisations and community groups have been assisting the research, Dr Guthrie made a special thanks to those who helped during the weekend's event.

"I would like to acknowledge Mayor, Bill West, and Community Projects Officer, Lisa Robertson, for organising for the research team to have the stall and Lawrence Ryan for publicising the research during the festivities," she said.

The research, funded by a three-year Australian Research Council Grant, will explore the potential of 'Justice Reinvestment,' an approach which emphasises concentrating on health and social services.

Under Justice Reinvestment, Dr Guthrie said, prison is considered a last resort to be used for dangerous and serious offenders, not for those who have committed less serious offences.

"It actively shifts the culture away from imprisonment to restoration within the community" she said.

Researchers found Cowra an 'ideal case study site' partly due to its stable population and middle range crime profile, and because its economy does not benefit directly from a prison.

Interested in being involved in this study? The research team would love to hear from you if you are:

*aged 16-24 years and living in Cowra

*Living in Cowra and have ever been involved with NSW Juvenile Justice or NSW Corrective Services system

*Aged 16-24 years, your last address was Cowra, and we're currently in NSW Juvenile Justice or NSW Corrective Services system

*A parent, guardian or carer of any of the above

*A service provider working with any of the above

Contact the research team on 1800 010 448 (free call) or email cowra@anu.edu.au or check out their websitehttp://ncis.anu.edu.au/cowra/

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