Research + Projects

Leaving custody behind: Foundations for safer communities and gender-informed criminal justice systems

This Issues Paper draws together evidence about women’s involvement in the criminal justice system and the factors behind the escalating female imprisonment rate in Victoria. It highlights the disproportionate harm caused by the incarceration of women and the urgent need to find alternatives that better meet human rights standards.

‘Leaving custody behind’ draws on a growing body of knowledge to explore the many challenges faced by women in a system designed primarily to respond to male offending. It proposes a suite of wide-ranging ‘options for change’ that provide opportunities to halt the damaging cycling of women through our prisons and to address the reasons why women come into contact with police, courts and prisons. 

The CIJ consulted frontline services working with women involved in Victoria’s criminal justice system – agencies providing legal, court, housing, substance use, family violence, mental health and counselling support services to incarcerated women, and those at risk of incarceration. Their practice wisdom is combined with findings from research and reviews conducted over the last 15 years, to shed further light on unique risk factors associated with women’s offending; their different experience of the justice system; and the impact of imprisonment on women, their children and the wider community. 

Related Content

illustration of woman in front of prison bars
Evaluation
Women’s Decarceration

Women Transforming Justice

The CIJ is conducting an ongoing evaluation of Women Transforming Justice (WTJ), a collaboration between the Fitzroy Legal Service (incorporating Darebin Community Legal Centre), the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women (LACW) and Flat Out.

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illustration of woman in front of prison bars
Blog

COVID-19 and incarcerated women: a call to action in two parts – Part One

In this two-part series, we draw on our work with partner agencies and people with experiences of imprisonment to argue for women to be prioritised for bail or early release from Victorian jails. This is in advance of a broader CIJ Discussion Paper regarding the imperative for decarceration of women, to be released towards the middle of the year. 

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illustration of woman in front of prison bars
Blog

COVID-19 and incarcerated women: a call to action in two parts – Part Two

In this two-part series, we draw on our work with partner agencies and people with experiences of imprisonment to argue for women to be prioritised for bail or early release from Victorian jails. This is in advance of a broader CIJ Discussion Paper regarding the imperative for decarceration of women, to be released towards the middle of the year. In the second of this two-part discussion, the CIJ explores the impact on women of measures to manage viral infection in Victoria’s prisons.

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Project
Women’s Decarceration

Feasibility Study – Residential Program for Aboriginal Women

The CIJ has embarked on an exciting new collaboration with Djirra and Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Indigenous Consulting to develop a model and plan for implementation for a residential program for Aboriginal women in Victoria.

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Key People

Elena Campbell

Elena Campbell

Associate Director of Research, Advocacy & Policy

Elena is a lawyer, speechwriter and former political staffer who has worked in legal and social policy for nearly 20 years. Elena’s expertise includes therapeutic justice, equal opportunity and human rights, as well as the prevention and elimination of violence against women.

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Catherine Caruana

Catherine Caruana

Senior Adviser, Research and Advocacy

Catherine’s work at the CIJ is supporting the centre's review of victims support services.

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