Review: Stories from the Inside

2019, a podcast from Social Reinvestment WA

Stories from the Inside is a podcast from Social Reinvestment WA, a coalition of WA organisations, including the Uniting Church WA, working to fix our broken justice system. Each episode features one person’s story from inside that system and how the people around them – their children, partners, parents and siblings – have been affected.

Storytellers are honest and open about their experiences, and not afraid to own up to their own behaviour. The real impact though, is the stories of how they ended up on the journey towards the justice system in the first place. Stories of trauma, violence and neglect.

There’s Tyronne, who grew up in foster homes and when reported sexual abuse was ignored, and was then punished by his abusers. Or Theresa, with almost her entire family spending time in prison. Or Jennifer, whose son was incarcerated for something as simple as unpaid fines.

Hearing Renna’s story in the first episode really made me think about just how terrifying her situation was. Renna was homeless and abusing alcohol. She needed assistance and support, but  instead was met with aggression – something she’d come to expect from authorities.

These stories are not created characters on some American Netflix series, but are real stories from real people within our WA communities.

As well as sharing these moving stories, the podcast includes a range of pretty disturbing statistics. For example, young people who enter the justice system in WA are nine times more likely to  have also been in the Child Protection system. And 57% of children and young people released from juvenile detention are sent back to the justice system within two years of their release.

Social Reinvestment WA also inform us that up to 90% of Aboriginal women incarcerated in WA are survivors of family or other violence, and 64% of those are incarcerated for unpaid fines.

Indigenous Australians are highly overrepresented in WA prisons despite being a minority in the overall population. We’ve all heard the quote ‘hurt people hurt people’, but when it comes to our  ‘justice’ system it appears that we don’t want to take this into consideration. Through this podcast, a series of short videos, and online resources, Social Reinvestment WA are not calling for us to  let people off for committing crimes, but are calling for a complete overhaul of the justice system. This includes introducing effective programs that reduce recidivism and reach vulnerable people before they enter the system in the first place.

People with lived trauma need support, not added trauma from a ‘hard on crime’ approach that doesn’t seem to be working. Social Reinvestment WA report that while WA’s prison population has  almost doubled in the last decade, crime has not reduced.

I’m certainly no expert in this area, and I recognise my privilege, but all the more reason for me to learn from this podcast. Stories from the Inside is a great lesson in just how complex issues around offending can be.

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and find out more at socialreinvestmentwa.org.au/stories.

Heather Dowling

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