Almost half of all people in prison live with a disability, compared with 18% of the total Australian population. Over a third of Australia’s prison population are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and those with disability are even more likely to be imprisoned. Prisons have traditionally struggled to ensure people with disability receive the essential supports required to transition to the community safely.
The Prison Advocacy Pilot by Uniting WA at Acacia Prison is attempting to address these known issues using an innovative and holistic approach by working towards establishing a culturally appropriate pathway for prisoners with disability to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Prisons often lack appropriate services for identifying and supporting people with disability. Disability in prison carries a stigma, is under-reported and relies heavily on self-reporting. Many prisoners facing disadvantage are unaware of their disability, particularly affecting those with psychosocial or intellectual disability. Prisoners with disability experience a higher risk of violence and abuse.
The Prison Advocacy Pilot driven by Uniting WA to assist vulnerable prisoners has project goals of supporting families and communities, enhancing disability supports, identifying barriers to NDIS access in prison, and working collaboratively with existing supports.
The Your Say advocacy service at Uniting WA is free, confidential and independent, and committed to upholding the human rights of people with disability.
Currently working as an Individual Disability Advocate in the National Disability Advocacy Program, Vernon works to ensure people with disability have a voice, can make informed decisions and that their human rights are safeguarded. A particular focus of Vernon’s current work is to identify, escalate and address systemic issues facing people with disability discovered as part of interactions with individuals and the community. Vernon has previously worked with vulnerable populations such as intravenous drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, frequent Emergency Department attenders as a Hospital Alcohol Liaison and Recovery Support Worker in Cheshire, and as an Alcohol Specialist, Caseworker and Mental Health Link Worker in a Community Drug and Alcohol Team in Hampshire, UK.