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Corrections and Rehabilitation – Housing for Ex-Dentainees

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 June 2022

Tags: Corrections, Housing

Ms O'CONNOR - As you would be aware, one matter that is front and centre for people exiting prison is the lack of housing. It is estimated that around half the people completing their sentence and exiting the prison service will be released into homelessness, which I am sure you would agree contributes to recidivism.

At this moment, only 11 properties have been allocated for people specifically exiting prison. How does this lack of investment in housing for released prisoners align with the new banner of rehabilitation from the Corrections Department? How many people who are without housing have been offered affordable accommodation on their release from prison?

Ms ARCHER - The issue of housing assistance for ex-prisoners, former prisoners or prisoners on release is one that I think is reflective now of what is happening in the community.

We know there is high demand for housing. That does not make it any more acceptable, but it is something the Government is working on with our significant investment in social and affordable housing.

For the moment there is the Beyond the Wire program, which I know you will be well aware of. Since its commencement, to the end of January this year, it has helped 139 participants. As part of our funding commitment we have also introduced the Prisoner Rapid Rehousing program, which provides those exiting the Tasmania Prison Service with transitional accommodation.

Ms O'CONNOR - How long does that last for?

Ms ARCHER - Transitional accommodation - Ian, are you able to give the length of time. It may not be a set time, but can I take that part on notice.

Ms O'CONNOR - Of course, and are you able to say whether that transitional housing support applies to every prisoner who is released, and whether it comes with additional supports to help ex-detainees secure housing and not return to Risdon?

Ms ARCHER - I can tell you at least that it is for 12 months, but it can be extended.

Ms O'CONNOR - The transitional housing?

Ms ARCHER - Yes, but I do not have the figure of whether or not it is every single one. I think it is those approved for the Prisoner Rapid Rehousing program. Mr Thomas is saying that.

Ms O'CONNOR - On that, and perhaps Mr Thomas can help with this, what level of support is provided or funded to assist prisoners who go into transitional housing, or who are exiting potentially into homelessness, to assist them in not returning to Risdon?

Ms ARCHER - They are delivered statewide by Anglicare, CatholiCare, Colony 47, Hobart City Mission and the Salvation Army. It's a broad spectrum of non government organisations.

It provides much needed housing support for people exiting custody and it can be a complex problem. More work needs to be done in the housing space. We need more housing. We need more housing across the board.

As for the program itself -

Ms O'CONNOR - Any outcomes date you have on that would be good.

Ms ARCHER - Do we have any information on that, Mr Thomas? There was something we were going to direct to you in relation to qualifying for the program.

Ms O'CONNOR - Who is eligible?

Mr THOMAS - Through you, Attorney-General, part of the preparation for the release of prisoners is to do that assessment around all their needs, including accommodation on release. That includes potential parolees having suitable accommodation. That is done through our rehabilitation interventions team. They will make contact and do the referrals through to these organisations to seek accommodation for them. If suitable accommodation can be found then that becomes part of that person's transition back into the community.

Ms O'CONNOR - Through the minister, what if suitable accommodation can't be found? It is our understanding that sometimes prisoners are exited into homelessness?

Ms ARCHER - We do utilise the services of temporary housing. We have just transformed the old Waratah Hotel and that has been available for that purpose. Am I speaking out of school? I am trying to assist Mr Thomas to answer the question.

Mr THOMAS - You are correct, thank you. Attorney-General, through you, we refer prisoners to Bethlehem House and we are able to get some temporary accommodation there for prisoners leaving prison who otherwise would be homeless. That is another service in addition to this that we use to try to secure accommodation for people exiting prison.

Ms ARCHER - As I said, more work needs to be done.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is it being done?

Ms ARCHER - I can't announce anything specifically but I would hope that we can work on that space for some type of temporary housing. I am open to that. I have something in mind but it is not something I have fully formed, announced or even funded. I can give you the commitment that it's an area I am looking at for those prisoners exiting the system who are otherwise homeless. In other words, they don't have the family support that some might have.

This is why we delivered the Just Time parenting program, because often that repairs damaged family relationships, particularly with our female prisoners. They participate in that program two or three times. They might have multiple children who are placed in different homes, for example, and significant broken relationships with parents and siblings. It's really important for us to be looking at those types of programs to repair their relationships in the hope that that delivers an outcome on their housing as well.

By having a northern facility and people being closer to family we are hoping that maintains family relationships rather than destroys them because of someone being incarcerated. I keep saying there is no one silver bullet to fix all of these problems, just like there is no one single cause. It is a far more complex problem than just building houses. We need to ensure that people are not permanently homeless if they are in that situation.

Ms O'Connor, I know you are fully aware of that situation and how people can become long-term homeless.