New initiative to support people with intellectual disability in the criminal justice system

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Posted 11 months ago by Rebecca St Clair

The new online resource is aimed at tackling the issue and making sure those with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairments are supported.  (Source: iStock)
The new online resource is aimed at tackling the issue and making sure those with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairments are supported. (Source: iStock)

RMIT University’s Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) has created a new online resource designed to help people with intellectual disability and cognitive impairments receive fairer treatment in the Victorian criminal justice system.

The Supportingjustice.net website was launched earlier today by Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, and CIJ Director, Rob Hulls.

Minister Donnellan says that it is important that people with disability get the support they need, especially if they are likely to come into contact with the police, courts or forensic services.

“We’re working hard to improve outcomes for people with disability interacting with the justice system and to strengthen our disability advocacy sector.”

A study by Corrections Victoria found 42 percent of male prisoners and 33 percent of female prisoners have an acquired brain injury. This compares to less than 3 percent of the general population.

The website provides practical resources for lawyers, judicial officers and court professionals to better respond to people with autism spectrum disorder, cognitive impairment, intellectual disability and dual disability.

It also connects support workers, people with disability and their carers with resources to help with seeking legal advice, preparing for court and getting support while at court.

People with a disability are over-represented in our criminal justice system, but are rarely recognised or responded to appropriately and on the whole, are under-supported according to CIJ Associate Director, Research, Innovation and Reform, Stan Winford.

The new online resource is aimed at tackling the issue and making sure those with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairments are supported. 

Mr Winford says, “The primary focus of the Supporting Justice website is to help lawyers and court professionals learn how to recognise the signs of disability in the first instance, gain an understanding of the criminal justice system experience of people with a disability, and offer appropriate needs-based support that will ultimately lead to fairer outcomes.”

The new resource has been designed with input from people with disability and lived experience of the criminal justice system to help transform the way people with disability are treated in the court system.

The new website is a part of the Supporting Justice program, which aims to create systemic change to improve the justice system's responses to disability and mental health.

CIJ Senior Adviser, Research and Advocacy, Justice and Disability Michael Haralambous says the supporting Justice program is unique in that it brings people with disability to the centre of the process and ensures their voices are heard in justice system reforms.

“The project team drew in a broad cross-section of court and legal professionals, disability justice workers, as well as people with disability and lived experience of the justice system, to inform every stage of the website’s design and development.”

What are your thoughts about the new initiative? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected].