New study shows how the Just Moving On program greatly improves employment and rehabilitation outcomes for individuals leaving the Tasmanian Prison System after their release.

SGS Economics and Planning evaluated the Just Moving On (JMO) pilot program for its effectiveness in improving post-release employment and other outcomes for people exiting the Tasmanian Prison System.

JMO is a collaborative throughcare program piloted between March 2021 and August 2023. JMO draws from the broad skillsets of speech and language pathologists trained in early intervention and diversionary programs, restorative justice, and rehabilitation initiatives. The program embodies a whole-person, therapeutic, and continuous care approach to fostering communication and literacy skills for people living in prison and exiting prison.

Our study highlighted two key success factors:

  • JMO embeds a novel understanding of how individual, practice-based, social, and systems issues interact to shape employment outcomes.
  • JMO implements a highly tailored approach to help grow and maintain a relationship of trust between participant and therapist.

On the balance of the evaluation factors, our study concludes that the pilot JMO was:

  • Appropriately designed to address a throughcare service gap in Tasmania
  • Administered and delivered efficiently
  • Successfully achieved four of eight intended objectives in just over two years and partially achieved the remaining outcomes. Here, it is crucial to recognise the program’s spheres of influence: JMO had a significant positive impact on participants’ short-term outcomes (improved language and literacy skills, confidence, personal resilience, improved family and community connections, and future aspirations). Intermediate and longer-term outcomes (including employment) depend on various external influences and are difficult to attribute to a program outcome causally.

Participant feedback highlights JMO’s profound impact on individuals' lives:

"And being able to have someone to go to and for them to not judge me, for them to listen, for them to literally hold my hand when I needed it, I've never really had that a lot in my life with mom and all that. So to have that, it made me realise that I do deserve it and that there is people out there that will... If I ask for help, if I ask the right people, they're not going to turn me down. Mom would just be, "Just get over it. You'll be right. Pick yourself up, off you go." It [JMO] was nurturing. Whenever I asked for help, the help that I received was nurturing."

This testimonial captures the supportive and empowering nature of the JMO program and its role in fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment for participants.

SGS made seven recommendations to guide the future design and delivery of JMO:

  1. Advocate for more nuanced human services outcome indicators.
    While specific and measurable outcomes are important, their formulation requires nuance to recognise progress, fluctuations, and variation along individual journeys. All stakeholders, from policymakers to governments and delivery partners, should be attentive to this.
  2. Enhance the referral pathway for JMO participants.
    Due to language disorders and related challenges, many JMO candidates did not have experience as recipients of therapeutic services. Funding for pre-release activities could enhance the referral pathway and program benefits to participants.
  3. Explore mechanisms for maintaining and re-establishing contact with individuals showing early signs of disengagement.
    Due to various factors, the degree of engagement with the pilot JMO differed across participants. Strategies to maintain and re-establish contact should balance the omnipresence of support without imposing on individuals’ needs to attend to other aspects of their emotional and physical wellbeing.
  4. Consider a bridging period between Just Time and JMO before prison release.
    Access to pre-release funding would permit activities that bridge the period between Just Time and prison release. This would enable therapists to establish trust with the individual as a common denominator that extends beyond the prison environment.
  5. Develop a more detailed budget breakdown.
    The pilot JMO performed well on budget. However, relative expenditures on specific cost elements could inform future investment decisions.
  6. Enhance quality records to support longitudinal follow-up.
    Access to quality evidence of longer-term impacts, a limitation of the pilot timeframe, would support longitudinal follow-up and the implementation of a continuous evaluation model.
  7. Develop a plan for JMO program expansion.
    We recommend that the JMO continue in some form in the future given the significant benefits to participants. Our high-level economic appraisal estimates that JMOs annual per participant cost is a mere four per cent of the annual per prisoner cost of incarceration in Tasmania. In other words, JMO would cover its costs if it were to keep a participant from returning to prison for as little as two weeks at any time in their future.

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This project is related to the Evaluation of the 'Just Time' parenting program project; click here to read more.

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