A new approach for the Justice Sector
- Paper Giant
- Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ)
Lack of appropriate support, coupled with stigma and discrimination, exacerbates the overrepresentation of people with disability in the Victorian criminal justice system.
This project intervenes to break this cycle of disadvantage by providing resources that help the justice sector work better with people with disability and achieve fairer outcomes.
The project combined human-centred design and systems practice methods to produce two main outputs: a system map and an online resource.
The project gave control back to participants with lived experience by allowing them to have their stories heard and to change the system that harmed them.
The system map shows how situations and events that affect people with disability in the criminal justice system have multiple causes, and helps justice professionals identify areas where an intervention could have significant impact and make systemic change. SupportingJustice.net provides resources to make that change happen.
Inclusive, cross-sector engagement was critical. Over multiple stakeholder workshops, four co-design workshops and three rounds of prototype testing, 36 representatives from the legal profession, courts, police, the judiciary, the disability support and advocacy sector, and 6 people with lived experience of disability collectively generated and iterated to improve outcomes for people with disability.
Impact evaluation reports produced during the project confirmed it was effectively engaging justice sector stakeholders, strengthening relationships and building momentum for change.
Although only launched in May 2020, the project is already having a positive impact. Justice stakeholders told CIJ they are now taking active steps to be more inclusive in their working groups and strategic planning. One agency has sent its staff to Voice at the Table advocacy training to build their inclusive practice capability.
The resource has also become part of professional development training for Victorian lawyers.
SupportingJustice.net demonstrates the desirability of drawing on human-centred design, the expertise of those with lived experience, and systems practice when responding to complex design problems. The project’s innovative design methodology proved successful within the criminal justice context and can be replicated across other complex social service design challenges.
When it comes to replication potential, any jurisdiction could easily follow the same process of systems mapping – using our map as a starting point – to build connections across the sector and discover the best areas for intervention that will have the most impact wherever they are located.
Highlight items are the ‘Effective communication with people with disability’ guide, ‘Preparing for court’ client form, and service directory. They help lawyers and magistrates spot the signs of disability, communicate appropriately, and refer clients and defendants to supporting services so they feel recognised, respected and supported by the system.
The resource is inclusively designed for people with disability, carers, and justice professionals. This means people with disability can understand the guidance that is being provided to magistrates about them.
CIJ are now regularly asked by police, court services, and Corrections to provide advice based on the successes of this project.
The system map shows where things are breaking down due to gaps and inconsistencies in service delivery across the network. It allows stakeholders to see where they have the power to create better justice outcomes for everyone. By building this depth of understanding first, we could design the online resource to intervene at the most impactful points.
Post-project evaluation showed that participants gained empathy for people with disability in the justice system. One magistrate says he is asking new questions of people and finding out things he wouldn’t have otherwise, which has changed how he sentences people with disability.