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Supporting criminal justice clients

There's a range of practice considerations that will help your service to work better with criminal justice clients. People who've been in prison are essentially no different to other clients and present with a similar range of issues, but with some specific considerations to take into account.

The prison/rehab culture clash

The transition from prison to a drug and alcohol residential treatment setting can present challenges for the client and impact on staff and other clients in the service. These transitional issues stem from the institutionalisation experienced by people while in prison and can result in behaviours that appear to be in direct conflict with the behaviours you expect in a drug and alcohol program. This has been identified as a 'culture clash' between prison and the treatment service.

The key is to understand the impact of 'doing time' on a person's behaviour and then make small adjustments in your practice. By acknowledging the differences between the two environments, you can build emotional safety and help the client make the cultural shift. The challenge for workers is not to make quick assumptions that a person is unmotivated, non-compliant and unable to change their prison behaviour.

The figure: The effects of the prison/rehab culture clash highlights the differences in behavioural expectations and cultural norms in a prison setting versus a drug and alcohol treatment setting. It explains the possible consequences of these differences and offers strategies to support a person to remain in treatment.

The effects of the prison/rehab culture clash

The effects of the prison rehab clash

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Tips for addressing barriers to working with people who've been in prison

Drug and alcohol workers have identified a range of barriers to providing services to people who've been in prison, barriers which can be understood in the context of the 'culture clash' - transitioning between the prison setting and the treatment setting. Most of these barriers will change with time and support. Tips on how to address these barriers are given in the table Addressing barriers to working with ex-prisoners.

For detailed information on criminal justice clients see Criminal Justice Contact - What You Need to Know

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