‘Reintegration of Offenders’- what does this mean?

Reintegration is directly linked to concepts of rehabilitation and restorative justice. Reintegration can take place after imprisonment or during restorative justice processes. This paper will commence with a discussion about reintegration processes that can be used during and after imprisonment, and how trying to achieve behavioural change through punishment alone does little to help an offender reintegrate back into society.

This paper will then discuss rehabilitative processes that have been used in Queensland to assist with the reintegration of offenders, particularly indigenous offenders and programs in regional settings, and whether these programs have been successful. This will be followed by a discussion on how restorative justice processes help with reintegration of offenders and victims. This paper will discuss that community awareness and education is needed in order to achieve successful reintegration.

In conclusion this paper will discuss Braithwaites (1989) theories on reintegrative shaming and how this can help to achieve reintegration of offenders through restorative justice processes. An underlying theme throughout this paper will be the involvement of community in helping positive reintegration. According to Masters (1994, 7) reintegration helps an offender adjust and fit back into the community. It is believed that changing the behaviour patterns of an offender is difficult or even impossible.

Reintegration is a method in which correction professionals help offenders make a smooth transition back into society. It is believed that recidivism rates are reduced if an offender is able to make a smooth transition. This not only helps the offender it also benefits the community (Masters 1994, 7). The purpose of rehabilitation programs in the prison system can be directly linked to helping facilitate reintegration of offenders back into society (Yew 1997, 6).

Roberts (2003, 17) states that certain programs such as work release and halfway houses are needed within the community to help assist with the transition of offenders into society after custodial release. Roberts (2003, 17) states, 'the primary purpose of most prisons for the past 100 hundred years has been to change the offender into a law abiding citizen'. Roberts, (2003, 17) agrees with Masters (1994, 7) interpretation of prisons but also states that this change is hard to achieve for offenders who have continually shown the same behavioural patterns throughout their lives.

Johnstone (2003, 4) states that punishment does little to encourage and much to discourage remorse and reparation of offenders. Johnstone (2003, 4) goes on to say that punishment results in the social exclusion rather than the reintegration of offenders. According to Johnstone (2003, 4) this creates offenders that are more of a threat to the community and little to help the trauma suffered by victims. Therefore, according to Roberts and Johnstone it is necessary to have, and expand, positive programs in communities that help offender reintegration.

The expansion of rehabilitative programs in Queensland was helped with the 1988 Kennedy Report. This report shifted the focus of the Queensland Corrective Services towards rehabilitation and reintegration (Ringrose 2001, 3). As a result processes focusing on reintegration gained momentum in Queensland in the early 1990's, this type of momentum would suggest a move towards decarceration. It should be noted, however, at the same time as these programs were being considered Queensland was experiencing unprecedented expansion in prisons and imprisonment rates (Fairbairn, 2001).

This suggests that particular programs focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration may have not have received the attention needed and may have been doomed to fail. Particular attention was given to the development and implementation of programs to target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. Programs included concepts of rehabilitation, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Violence Program, and the Ending Offending program. Programs also included diversion programs such as the Aboriginal Elder Visitation Program.