Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Corrections spokesperson
The Parole Board's Annual Report confirms the worst fears of the community and housing sector. Prisoners who are suitable to be released on parole are being forced to stay in prison because they can't get housing.
For the second year running, the Parole Board has confirmed the lack of housing for parolees, following the Liberals' closure of the Post Release Options Programs and the Salvation Army Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Program.
The removal of these housing support programs is inflating the inmate population, and is clearly contributing to the $2 million cost blowout at Risdon Prison. In the last financial year, the number of inmates has increased from an average of 470 to 550 a day, with current levels at close to 600.
The Parole Board Chair noted that despite government reassurance that Housing Connect will give priority housing status to parolees, this isn't what's happening. It's had no effect at all on their ability to find a house.
The government’s dismissal of ex-prisoners is not only channelling taxpayer funds to the prisons instead of public housing, but it's also increasing the risk of criminal behaviour. If people are being incarcerated for longer and released from prison into homelessness, the likelihood of reoffending is much higher.
Axing the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program saved the Liberals less than $260,000 a year. The cost of individuals staying in prison is much higher.
Ex-prisoners are not being supported to transition into the community, and people are now staying in prison longer before being forced to exit into homelessness.
The government must reinstate the funding to the PRO and REO programs as a matter of urgency.