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Lawyers go to jail to help at-risk kids

Lawyers go to jail to help at-risk kids

By Karin Derkley

Young Persons 

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Lawyers are being called on to get locked up for a night along with the LIV CEO Adam Awty and LIV Young Lawyers members at this year's Whitelion Bail Out event.

On 24 May, Mr Awty will don prison duds, be stripped of his possessions and line up with dozens of other members of the community, including other CEOs, to experience what it is like for a young person to go to jail.

After being interrogated, fingerprinted and spending time in a cell at the Old Melbourne Gaol, he will have to come up with at least $1000 to bail him out of jail. The funds will go to Whitelion's programs helping at-risk youth keep out of the criminal justice system.

“I’m taking part to learn a bit more about what brings young people into trouble with the law and, hopefully, what will keep them out of jail,” Mr Awty says.

“I’ll be in a prison environment, but I’m lucky enough to be able to go home at the end of the night. If we can raise some money to help others do that, it will be a good result.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have the education and opportunities to keep me out of our prisons, and I’m willing to do my bit to support others to learn more about alternatives to a life of crime.”

LIV Young Lawyers “gang” member Brendan Lacota says he is participating because Whitelion is a “fantastic charity that fits in with what Young Lawyers is all about”.

For young lawyers who have had the “incredible privilege” of getting an education and other support along the way, getting locked up helps them gain an insight into what it’s like for others who lack those supports, he says.

“While we realise it’s a mock event, it’s the reality of the experience for a lot of young people, and I don’t think you fully comprehend that until you go through something that’s close to the experience yourself.

“I think that can contribute to us becoming better and more empathetic lawyers,” he says.

Teams from Minter Ellison, Allens and Svenson Barristers have also put their hands up to be locked up on the night.

Whitelion chair, magistrate Pauline Spencer, says more lawyers should join them.

"There's a natural fit between the legal profession and what Whitelion does, because lawyers understand that if you don’t intervene positively in at-risk young people’s lives there is an increased risk they will go on into the justice system."

Magistrate Spencer says she has seen firsthand in her work at the Children's Court at Dandenong the value of young people having the support of an organisation like Whitelion. "If you can get to young people with a positive influence and help them to find and keep a job, their lives will change."

Research shows that early investment in young people who may have had contact with the criminal justice system pays off, Mr Lacota says. “If we can keep them in school and give them vocational support they’re much less likely to have further contact with the criminal justice system.”

Whitelion fundraising and partnerships leader Josh Watt says the event is a great team building activity. "It's a great way for people to meet and bond together."

Guest speaker at this year's event will be Raphael Rowe, UK Journalist, TV presenter and host of Netflix Series ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons’ who will talk about his journey from prison to a successful career in the media.

You can find out more about registering as a team or as an individual with Bail Out here.

Help bail out LIV CEO Adam Awty here and the Young Lawyers gang here.


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