Open Circle internship – my experience
This piece is written by Juris Doctor & Masters of Social Work student, Eliza Hew, about her experience undertaking an online internship at CIJ's Open Circle.
My name is Eliza Hew and I am a third year Juris Doctor & Master of Social Work student. For the past 10 weeks I have been completing an online internship at Open Circle (Centre for Innovative Justice) as a credited subject for my JD degree. Following preliminary discussions between Open Circle and Forensicare (Victoria’s leading forensic mental health provider) to discuss opportunities to embed restorative justice practices within forensic mental health settings, I have been researching to create a grounding piece of work on this topic.
Historically, people with serious mental illness have not been included in restorative justice practices, with exclusion hinging on the assumption that this population do not have the capacity to meaningfully participate. More recently however, literature suggests that this assumption is unsubstantiated (and discriminatory); there exist significant potential benefits for patients, staff, victims and the broader community.
My research has culminated in a report, which outlines the key practice considerations for any restorative intervention in this setting, including the risks, challenges and conflict that may arise. The report also details the range of restorative justice options that are available for implementation, drawn from the (few) practice models that currently exist in Australia and overseas. While practice in this area is certainly new, potential benefits are being identified and momentum seems to be growing.
In addition to this project work, I have been (virtually) attending Open Circle’s weekly team meetings, which has facilitated exposure to the day-to-day occurrences at Open Circle, including conference referrals, program work and practice conversations. The internship has facilitated my knowledge in areas of law, social work and has given me a taste of what it’s like to be a part of a restorative justice service.