IN-CJ Newsdesk 2024 – Exploring Peer Support in Criminal Justice

IN-CJ Newsdesk 2024 – Exploring Peer Support in Criminal Justice

As part of the IN-CJ Newsdesk 2024 series, we are pleased to present a thoughtful discussion by Dr Jiri Mertl, a researcher and lecturer at Charles University in Prague and the University of Ostrava. Mertl’s work focuses on the role of peer support in the rehabilitation and recovery of women involved in the criminal justice system.

Jiri Mertl highlights the importance of peer support within the criminal justice system, particularly for women who have experienced incarceration. Based on his research with Czech NGOs, Mertl examines the unique challenges these women face, such as the prevalence of drug abuse as a coping mechanism for trauma and the impact of domestic violence.

Mertl’s research includes interviews with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in the Czech Republic, exploring their interactions with public institutions and NGOs. His findings underscore the need for gender-responsive and trauma-informed approaches to rehabilitation, acknowledging that many women’s pathways into criminality are linked to relational trauma and social inequalities.

Central to Mertl’s discussion is the concept of peer support. He explains that peer support, grounded in authenticity and the ethics of care, is a valuable tool for rehabilitation. By sharing lived experiences, peer support helps in mutual recovery, resilience building, and personal development. This approach benefits both the individuals receiving support and the peers providing it.

Mertl discusses several cultural and structural barriers to effective peer support in the Czech Republic, including insufficient funding, lack of legislative support, and the absence of formal peer support programs in prisons. He emphasizes the need for systemic changes to address these issues, advocating for better funding and legislative recognition to enhance the sustainability and effectiveness of peer support initiatives.

Looking ahead, Mertl calls for ongoing research and practical application of peer support in criminal justice. Addressing the current gaps and challenges could significantly improve rehabilitation outcomes for women in the criminal justice system. His discussion highlights the importance of supportive, inclusive approaches tailored to the needs of marginalized populations.

We invite you to listen to Jiri Mertl’s full discussion to explore his insights further. Contributions like Mertl’s are crucial in shaping more effective and compassionate criminal justice systems. Stay updated on future discussions and events by visiting the IN-CJ website and following us on Twitter.

Rob Watson

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