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Corrections - Rehabilitation

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tags: Justice, State Budget, Corrections

Ms O'CONNOR - The 2020 prisoners survey which was released in July 2021 and the previous Rehabilitation and Reintegration Report of 2018 found that education, training, reintegration and rehabilitative services were not being delivered at the levels that are needed and that lockdowns are impacted heavily on the delivery of these services. It appears to us that the situation is getting worse each year. Will you take some responsibility and commit to a new strategy that has the resources needed?

Ms ARCHER - I have taken responsibility for the entire corrections system. The buck stops with me. We have taking a very different approach. I've said I'm absolutely committed to rehabilitation. That's why this Budget has additional funding for rehabilitation programs. I'm always looking at and receiving information from a number of different sources as to other programs available and will always look at that. I've also confirmed with the unions, with recruitment and increasing our correctional officer staffing and they're at the table in relation to providing us with further solutions and ideas and that's going well as is our intensive recruitment training.

Lockdowns, unfortunately, are often necessary for operational uses. Sometimes it is because of staff shortage. That's why we're committed to increasing correctional staff. Members conveniently forget about this, but last year, during COVID-19 lockdowns occurred because of the very nature of needing to isolate various parts of the prison but we had strategies in place. The prison is back to 'new normal' if you like; different operations but still able, if we had an outbreak, to go back to how it once was. All of this needs to be looked at holistically.

To answer your direct question, which I did: yes, I take full responsibility. We are looking at alternative strategies. In relation to lockdowns -

Ms O'CONNOR - What's happening with the Apsley Unit?

Ms ARCHER - I can get to that.

In relation to lockdowns, the TPS is always looking at strategies to minimise them. In the very nature of the maximum-security area and the types of prisoners that it houses, there is often more of an increase in lockdowns.

In relation to Apsley and rehabilitation -

Ms O'CONNOR - So, drug and alcohol treatment which prisoners weren't able to access.

Ms ARCHER - A lot has been said about shutting Apsley. It housed only a very limited number of prisoners. It was obviously a live-in arrangement. It is entirely incorrect for any member to say that we don't offer any service whatsoever.

Ms O'CONNOR - No one has said that.

Ms ARCHER - You haven't said it just now. Ms Haddad issued an appalling media release saying there were no alcohol and drug rehabilitation services. The TPS intervention programs unit focuses on a range of different areas: sex offender; drug and alcohol, family violence; violence prevention; general offending; and resilience and coping skills. The TPS continues to deliver EQUIPS Foundation and EQUIPS Addiction Programs developed by Corrective Services New South Wales. We use that model. The EQUIPS programs are therapeutic psycho-education programs developed to reduce the risk of reoffending of a wide range of offenders.

The TTPS Drug and Alcohol Council continues to provide individual intervention to prisoners identified as having alcohol and drug use issues. The TPS also receives the support and assistance of a number of community organisations in the delivery of rehabilitation and personal development programs. This includes Holyoake Gottawanna programs specifically targeting addiction.

Ms O'CONNOR - There is no dedicated alcohol and drug treatment program, is there?

Ms ARCHER - If members would allow me to address the question, there is. We actually have a far better system in place than we've ever had before for alcohol and drug intervention. I've already mentioned the resilience program, EQUIPS Addictions Program. We also have now the dialectical behaviour therapy within the women's prison. We also have a new program called the Making Choices program, which is due to commence in October. On top of this, we have one-on-one counselling being offered.

Based on all those interventions being provided, the current model is securing what was offered previously when the Apsley Residential Program was operating. I'll get to what we're doing in relation to residential with the limited number of beds available. It is wider reaching and more effective, so it is having much greater impact now than in more recent times.

The five new therapeutic staff that we've funded to work within the prison will focus on delivering rehabilitation programs and drug and alcohol interventions. I'm happy to report that recruitment of these five new therapeutic positions is in the process of being finalised. That will allow for further expansion of existing alcohol and other drug treatment options that are available for prisoners to include brief intervention for those with lower alcohol and drug treatment needs and short sentences, as well as assisting drug and alcohol counselling and group-based interventions for those with higher criminogenic alcohol and drug treatment needs. We still have group counselling as well.

The TPS currently employs a broad team of staff who deliver important intervention and integration services to prisoners who are affected by alcohol and other drug use. This includes two full-time drug and alcohol counsellors, senior program facilitators, program facilitators and other specialist therapeutic roles for specific interventions, including psychologists and counsellors. All of that is continuing. The addition of five new positions will strengthen that team to further improve its interventions that we currently have.

We are also looking at exploring options to reintroduce a better residential drug and alcohol program. We've identified that the delivery of only a small portion of a residential to what we now have delivering a greater service is not as sufficient, I don't think. We're looking at other options of using Ron Barwick Prison, for example. We have a division there that could possibly house up to 34 participants for a proper residential program.

At the moment to suggest that no programs or counselling or advice is being provided is thoroughly incorrect. There is a team there, there is one-on-one and there is group counselling. As I said, we're looking at a possible expansion of what was the Apsley unit, but it also needs to be recognised that during COVID 19, Apsley needed to be used as both a maximum-security unit and an isolation unit.

Ms O'CONNOR - I wanted to ask about the support that is given to prisoners who leave prison and how they are connected with other services to rejoin the community. We have been told that prisoners who are receiving prescription medicine are given about two days of medicine when they leave and are then left to find access to a GP without any kind of support. Can you confirm this?

Ms ARCHER - I will ask Mr Thomas in a minute. Regarding access to a GP, I alluded to that earlier. We do not want to set someone up to fail when they are released. Their health is a priority as are other issues such as employment, family connection, housing and the like. Health is just as if not more important in certain cases. We have just had discussions regarding a group that might be able to assist in matching a prisoner with a GP if they do not already have one. In relation to what we offer already, Ian, are you able to say anything further?

Mr THOMAS - Going back to the comments earlier about the booklet, which is called Getting Out, it provides a lot of details for prisoners about services they can access in the community. Where possible we will align them with the services. With health, some of it is patient confidentiality so a lot of those direct contacts will be provided through the Correctional Primary Health Service, which provides the health service within the prisons. We work closely with them wherever possible to align prisoners with the ongoing equivalent of the service that they are getting in prison. It will really depend on the specific service that they are seeking.

If it is something to do with a significant life-threatening injury or illness then that will continue because that is given. If it is more about a request by the prisoner rather than something mandated then it is really dependent on them to a degree and also what we can align them with on release.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you for that. Has there been a change of practice? I know there is guidance provided to people who are released from a corrections facility through the Getting Out book. Is there a change of practice for prisoners who medication-dependent? For some prisoners it can be anti-anxiety, anti-depression medication, so if they run out, there's a real issue for them. How would the prison service deal with that pre-release, to make sure that we're not unleashing people without their medication into what is potentially a very stressful post-prison existence?

Mr THOMAS - Through you minister. The detail of it is managed between the prisoner and Correctional Primary Health, but our intent as part of that more holistic approach wherever possible, to make sure that the services that are being provided in prison continue to be provided on release. Again, it is difficult to answer in detail, because Health will aim to align the prisoner with a general practitioner on release, if they already have one, or if we need to put one in place.

Ms O'CONNOR - What if they don't?

Mr THOMAS - Again, I'm not trying to avoid the question, but it's more of a health-related question because we’re not able to deal the detail.

Ms ARCHER - Correctional Primary Health is run by the Department of Health?

Mr THOMAS - Yes.

Ms ARCHER - On site?

Mr THOMAS - On the site, yes.

Ms ARCHER - The Health department also runs the Wilfred Lopes Centre on site, which houses prisoners, but just happens to be on the Risdon site. We only hear in the media about those in Wilfred Lopes, who happen to be prisoners as well.

In relation to the issue of a prisoner not already having a GP, I'm interested in talking to this group that I've met recently with, suggesting that they could put prisoners in contact with GPs, because we know GPs can be in short supply and it's an issue for everyone. It's something they offered and I'm interested in pursuing it. When people suggest it in a meeting, I would then obviously contact the Director of Prisons and say, I think it would be good if you met with these people to see if there's any assistance they can provide - and I know Mr Thomas is always willing to look at those sorts of things.