Special Criminology Seminar Featuring Professor David Best and Claire Seppings

Image: Prison fence by Jody Lehign (Pixabay)

Event details


Date & time

Friday 21 February 2020


Jean Martin Room, Level 3, Beryl Rawson Building, 13 Ellery Cres, ANU
ANU Canberra


Professor David Best and Claire Seppings


ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods

The ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and the School of Regulations (CRMS) and Global Governance (RegNet) are co-hosting a special seminar featuring Professor David Best and Claire Seppings. At this seminar Professor Best will present on ‘Strengths-based approaches to building justice capital in prisons’ and Claire Seppings on ‘Straight talking: Preliminary findings from a peer mentoring trial’.

Strengths-based approaches to building justice capital in prisons (David Best)

While prison is associated with risk management and a governance of containment and deficits, rehabilitation remains an aim that informs a range of prison activities – education, peer-based approaches, family visits, and recreation activities. The conceptual frame for the presentation will be two-fold: 1) a positive criminology model that draws on relational, strengths-based and future-focused activities, and 2) introducing the new concept of justice capital (Hamilton et al, 2020) to refer to the resources available in custodial settings promote and support rehabilitation and effective reintegration. The seminar will describe three strengths-based approaches in UK prisons:

  1. The Family Connectors approach used to engage families in reintegration efforts based on interests and abilities at HMP Kirkham
  2. The Outside In programme to build bridges to the community and to ensure that the prison actively contributes to community wellbeing at HMP Wymott
  3. The Drug Recovery Programme at HMP Holme House where recovery capital has been introduced as the metric for measuring and building skills and resilience among prisoners

All three programs have been evaluated to show positive impact not only on the participants but on families and the wider prison community and culture. Evidence will be presented about the diversity of gains although all remain early in their implementation. The findings will be framed in the context of Justice Capital as a potential mechanism for assessing individual strengths and resources but also for assessing the rehabilitation potential of institutions by mapping their capacity to nurture personal, social and community capital.

David Best is Professor of Criminology at the University of Derby and Honorary Professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the ANU. He is also Chair of the Prisons Research Network of the British Society of Criminology. Trained as a psychologist and criminologist, he has worked in practice, research and policy in the areas of addiction recovery and rehabilitation of offenders. He has authored or co-edited five books on addiction recovery and has written more than 270 peer-reviewed journal publications, book chapters and technical reports. In 2019, he produced a monograph entitled Pathways to Desistance and recovery: The role of the social contagion of hope (Policy Press) and a co-edited volume, Strength-based approaches to crime and substance use (Routledge). David’s research interests include recovery pathways, recovery capital and its measurement, social identity theory and its implications for recovery, recovery and desistance, addiction treatment effectiveness, prison and community connections, and family experiences of addiction and recovery.

Straight talking: Preliminary findings from a peer mentoring trial (Claire Seppings)

Background: Peer mentoring happens in every corner of the world. Deakin University, in partnership with the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety, has trialled an Australian-first philanthropic-funded ‘through-the-gate’ prison peer mentoring program in Geelong.

The project was inspired by and based on Claire Sepping’s 2015 Churchill Fellowship, which identified prevailing thinking and recognised ‘best practice’ in international peer mentoring programs for ex-prisoners. Programs she studied demonstrated a significant decrease in the reoffending rates of those who have successfully engaged with and had the support of a peer mentor.

Claire found ex-prisoners who have reformed contribute to reducing re-offending by mentoring newly-released prisoners and advising on improvements to service systems that enable people to live a crime-free life. The peer mentoring model development incorporated best practice from such overseas programs and Victorian correctional policy and procedures. Ethically approved, the Straight Talking program has been delivered in partnership with Marngoneet Correctional Centre. Deakin University has undertaken a full ‘action research’ evaluation.

In this presentation, Deakin University Project Coordinator Claire Seppings will share the wide range of positive impacts Straight Talking has experienced to date. Preliminary results include the stability of the mentee after release; the quality of the mentoring relationship experience; the positive impact on the peer mentors returning to prison in this supportive way; prison staff experiencing a positive impact engaging with ex-prisoners working alongside them; and both staff and prisoners seeing what reintegration success actually looks like. Only Offenders Can Stop Reoffending (the User Voice motto). ‘Straight Talking’ is walking the talk.

Claire Sepping’s aspiration to bring about change in the criminal justice system for those involved and impacted is driven by her extensive professional and lived experience. In 1984, on graduating as a Social Worker from Monash University, Melbourne with a final placement at Winlaton Girls’ Training Centre, Claire began her career with the Department of Social Security. In 1995 she became a Naturopath and in 1997 conducted a healthy living program in Bendigo Prison. Claire’s lived experience comes from her journey with a former partner and his extensive revolving prison life. In recent years, Claire managed Centrelink’s Victorian Justice Services Program, during which time she developed substantial relationships with non-/government sectors. Throughout the course of this period, her creation, establishment and evaluation of many innovative projects to reduce recidivism and community impact for those involved gained high-level recognition. In 2008, Claire received the Minister for Human Services Award for Exemplary Service to Customers and Stakeholders. In 2012, she was awarded the Victorian Custody Reference Group ‘Access to Justice Award’. Claire was awarded a 2015 Churchill Fellowship to study the rehabilitative role of ex- offenders as peer mentors. Her findings widely distributed, applauded, embraced by media and conferences, and welcomed by parliamentary inquiries. In July 2017, Deakin University received philanthropic funds to develop and trial an Australian first innovative peer mentoring model based on Claire’s Churchill Fellowship findings and appointed her as the peer mentoring trial’s Project Coordinator. Claire is a member of the Women’s Correctional Services Advisory Committee and Chair of the Victorian Custody Reference Group.

Image: Prison fence by Jody Lehign Pixabay under Pixabay License

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet