Edwin's story

Edwin's story

Edwin has spent twenty years living with schizophrenia. Since he was diagnosed in his early 20s, he has been hospitalised several times. Edwin has spent many years estranged from his family, but a therapeutic approach to addressing his behaviour has helped him to reconcile with his mother, Jane. 

‘The ARC program gave Edwin the support to recover,’ Jane said.

In 2016, Edwin experienced a prolonged mental health crisis. His behaviour led to difficulties with substance dependence, and he eventually found himself caught up in the criminal justice system. Edwin’s behaviour also caused challenges for Jane, with an Intervention Order eventually being taken out for her protection.

After spending some time in custody, Edwin was referred by a Magistrate into the Assessment and Referral Court (ARC). The ARC program is a specialist program within the Magistrates’ Court set up for people who have a mental illness or a cognitive impairment, such as an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or autism spectrum disorder. It aims to help address the underlying factors which are contributing to someone’s offending, so they don’t get stuck in the criminal justice system.

Because he was participating in ARC, Edwin was allocated a case manager to provide him with ongoing and intensive support, which isn’t available for mainstream Magistrates’ Court matters. Edwin was connected to other vital community support services to help him deal with his substance abuse issues while receiving care for his mental health.

ARC participants, like Edwin, attend monthly hearings with a Magistrate to discuss their rehabilitation and goals. Jane attended each of Edwin’s hearings, and as the process went on, she and Edwin reconnected. Today, they are working together as Edwin settles into his new, secure housing and looks for ongoing work.

Edwin and Jane see his participation in ARC as a turning point in his life.

‘It was a lot more personal, one on one experience’ recalls Edwin. ‘You feel as though you are understood a lot more, you’re heard with what you’re saying. The extra time the magistrates put in for you really gives you the motivation to do the right thing.’

Jane appreciates how the magistrate addressed Edwin with professional care and encouragement. ‘The program provided him with a different pathway that was not adversarial, but one of encouragement and respect, permitting an alternative to one of decline into habitual anti-social behaviours and possible criminality.’

‘The ARC program provided us with hope.’

As for what’s next, Edwin feels ready to look for work. ‘I think that’s what the Magistrate would want me to do, is to get a job.’

More information

Read more about Reducing the harm of criminal justice involvement for people experiencing mental health issues

To find out more about specialist courts in Victoria, go to www.mcv.vic.gov.au

Was this helpful?