The First Step Legal Service (FSLS) provides well-resourced, fully integrated pro bono legal representation to approved clients. Many of the clients of the First Step Program face criminal proceedings in the various courts throughout Victoria. The stress of legal proceedings can often result in periods of relapse and reoffending. The aim of the First Step Legal Service is to support the clients throughout this stressful period and to ensure that all of the matters in mitigation are presented to the court. This ensures that any sentence imposed furthers the process of rehabilitation and increases the prospect of the client reengaging in society as a functional member. In turn, this ultimately benefits society.
The First Step Legal Service recently produced a study analysing FSLS clients for the period August 2008 to October 2010. The study shows low rates of recidivism (see sidebar). These results are possible because:
1) The full resources of First Step Program’s clinical team are made available to the First Step Legal Service (subject to relevant authorities), enabling the legal team to present an insightful, comprehensive and current portrayal of our clients’ prospects of rehabilitation. This usually includes reports and/or evidence from the professionals at the First Step Program, along with supporting material from other services and Second Step Program progress reports.
2) The accessibility and proximity of the multidimensional services of the First Step Program (under the one roof) often promotes a transfer of trust of the clients from the clinical staff to the legal staff, thereby facilitating effective communication.
3) Clients receive a high level of support before, during and after their involvement with the courts. This is ensured through the open communication channels between the clinical staff and legal team. However, with further funding enabling more extensive follow up, this process could become significantly enhanced.
Any current First Step clients can ask to speak to the First Step Legal Service's lawyers who will determine if they are eligible for support from this service. Contact the clinic on 9537 3177.
To learn about the proposed expansion of the First Step Legal Service click here.
Many of the First Step Legal Service clients facing serious charges with extensive prior criminal histories receive dispositions other than immediate incarceration. Instead, the courts have opted to emphasise rehabilitation and have imposed treatment orders and the like. This was only possible due to the compelling evidence regarding rehabilitation. We are pleased to report that many of those clients have continued to transform their lives and complied with the court orders.
We include these results to illustrate these outcomes and more.
FSLS clients with completed cases (Aug 2008 - Oct 2010)