Mark Johnson addressed prisoners, researchers, academics, policymakers and more, and found a media keen to hear his story
User Voice founder/CEO Mark Johnson recently undertook a whistlestop tour of some of Australia’s prisons and criminal justice stakeholders, hoping to make an impact on the country’s approach to criminal justice.
Mark was invited by Claire Seppings, a Churchill Trust fellow who is doing research into peer-led programs. In three weeks he visited prisons, universities, conferences and the media to explain the unique peer-led User Voice model and to share some of his own experiences.
At the Deakin University in Geelong, for example, he explained how philanthropic funding can play a part in the criminal justice system. In the same city, he visited Margoneet Prison and talked to over 100 prisoners and 30 staff about the User Voice model and the value of lived experience. He also fitted in a community justice talk to over 100 delegates representing the broad range of criminal justice stakeholders.
Mark was in Australia having been invited to give the keynote speech at the Reintegration Puzzle national prisons conference, a central event for advocates, policymakers and researchers of rehabilitative programs in Australia.
The conference, in Hobart, Tasmania, had already guaranteed Mark a fair degree of publicity and he was met by an enthusiastic media keen to hear more of the User Voice story in a country with a prison system and reoffending rates similar to the UK’s but with little peer-led activity.
Mark tackled the region’s “archaic” thinking and addressed the “futility of the tough on crime” rhetoric, challenging the public to “ask what happens to people in prisons that equips them to make sure they don’t do the same thing when they come out”.
He did a tour of regional media organisations in the south of Australia, taking in WIN TV, the Hobart Mercury, the Geelong Advertiser, ABC Melbourne and more, and was delighted at the hunger to hear about new ways of addressing criminal justice issues.
“I was amazed at how much interest there was in the User Voice story and model,” said Mark. “Hopefully we can stay in touch and help stakeholders out there introduce a more just and effective peer-led approach into the system.”