Victims services counselling in prisons program

Ms Loretta Allen-weinstein1, Mr Tom Dorman2, Mrs Summer Chan2

1Juvenile Justice Nsw, Sydney, Australia, 2Victims Services, , Australia

Childhood trauma is one of the nation’s most important public health concerns, with adverse childhood experiences being one of the strongest predictors for difficulties in life.

‘Recommendation 15.7 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sex Abuse, advocates for improved access to therapeutic treatment for survivors who are in the juvenile justice system. Approved Counselling in Juvenile Justice Centres provides an opportunity for young people in custody to address their trauma histories’.

This presentation offers an insight into the Victims Services Counselling in Prisons program, a unique partnership between Juvenile Justice and Victims Services NSW to provide a collaborative service that addresses the trauma related to victimisation of young people in custody.

By the time a child has entered the criminal justice system, they may have already been exposed to multiple traumatic experiences. Research shows that young people in custody are likely to have a history of complex trauma and/or victimisation as the result of a traumatic event in their early life. The Young People in Custody Health Survey indicates that 70% of young people in custody have experienced abuse (75% female and 70% male) and 30% have experienced severe abuse (58% female and 28% male).

Approved Counselling in Juvenile Justice Centres is a trial program aimed at encouraging young people in custody – who are victims of violent crime – to address the impact that trauma has had on their lives. Currently, the service is offered to young people in Frank Baxter, Cobham and Reiby juvenile justice centres. The service is voluntary and encourages young people to talk about their traumatic experiences, process and overcome problematic thoughts and develop effective coping and interpersonal skills.


Loretta has over twenty years experience working with disadvantaged young people in the homelessness and criminal justice sectors. She has worked in a range of environments including street work with young people involved with gangs in Los Angeles and managing non-government homeless and refuge services in Victoria and Family Support Services in NSW. Loretta set up the first multi-disciplinary youth service in Melbourne. She previously worked as a Caseworker with Juvenile Justice NSW and is currently working with Juvenile Justice in strategic planning and policy development. Loretta is an industry representative on the international organisation – Collaboration of Researchers for the Development of Effective Offender Supervision (CREDOS).