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Corrections and Rehabilitation – Recidivism and Rehabilitation

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 5 June 2023

Tags: Corrections, Recidivism, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I know it's uncomfortable for you to talk about the Greens corrections minister's record and what happened under the Labor-Greens government because it's a stark difference to what's happened under your Government.

Ms ARCHER - You weren't around, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - I was on the Huon Valley Council; I wasn't in government.

In 2020 you said in an opinion piece about rehabilitation and integration, 'the Government was focused on it', and you explained our recidivism rates as saying:

Prison populations across the country are increasing and Tasmania is not immune from this trend.

In reality, between 2014-15 after the Labor/Greens government and 2021-22, Tasmania experienced the largest increase in prisoner population in the country, almost double the national average rate. At the same time our recidivism rates went from 5 per cent -

Ms ARCHER - Do you have a source?

Dr WOODRUFF - These are the figures which we gathered from Tasmania's records of recidivism. Under 2014-15 our recidivism rate was 5 per cent, lower than the national average, and under a Greens corrections minister -

Ms ARCHER - But where from? Can we have sources?

Dr WOODRUFF - Correct. I will finish my question.

Ms ARCHER - Chair, if the member is going to ask a question quoting figures, can we have sources? I need to -

Dr WOODRUFF - I will finish my question. And 10 per cent higher than the national average under your watch.

I'd be very happy for you to correct the record if you think those figures are inaccurate. I'm saying to you, this is not a national trend; this is a Tasmanian problem. It's about your Government's approach to seeing our prison as punishment rather than rehabilitation and your comments earlier were very telling. With the list of the things that you're doing for rehabilitation, you didn't mention housing and you didn't mention skills to get people jobs. So, what are you doing actually other than getting community organisations and volunteers to come and help prisoners, to rehabilitate people and prevent the recidivism rate being as high as you've currently made it?

Ms ARCHER - If I didn't mention housing I would have meant to because housing is a very important component of it.

Dr WOODRUFF - It doesn't exist.

Ms ARCHER - Chair, I'm attempting to answer the question.

When you quote figures, it's not that I'm doubting you. I think any member coming to the table quoting figures should say their source, as I'm required to as minister. I've even got ABS statistics that I will quote from time to time, and ROGS, so all I'm asking for is the source of the information so that we can be assured that it's correct.

Dr WOODRUFF - You could provide me those figures yourself.

Ms ARCHER - In relation to recidivism, I have said that my strong focus is on rehabilitation. It's not on throwing someone in a cell, locking them up and throwing away the key. That will not work; it will not address recidivism; and it will not address prison numbers. I would be delighted if we could get our numbers down and have less reliance also on having higher numbers in maximum-rated areas so that we don't have to have the units. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could close some of those down or convert them into education and training?

What I have said, is a strong focus is on education and training and we did put additional funds in, I think it was last year, for literacy programs. I'm sure someone can get that figure up for me. We put additional funding in for literacy programs last year because some people can't go to the next level - and that's a large part of our prison population - to a TasTAFE course or university level. We have a partnership with the University of Southern Queensland. We have to address literacy and numeracy so that's why there's a focus in funding on that. We've had success with that with higher numbers and we've also had success in relation to partnering with Libraries Tasmania with there being a 40 something per cent increase in library book takeout, and that is because of the literacy programs we are running.

It is a multi-pronged approach and I accept that as part of the rehabilitation -

It is quite distracting the mumbling that goes on with Ms Butler at the table. It is distracting and I have been distracted from what I was saying.

It was an additional $500 000 in the 2022-23 Budget for a new literacy program that supported inmates to improve their functional literacy and improve opportunities for employment. That was what I was referring to there. There is a real focus on that.

When we took over Government, the infrastructure was dilapidated. There hadn't been maintenance in a lot of areas of the prison. Hayes Prison was earmarked for closure. That was the only minimum rated area that could be used for any form of rehabilitation. We had to almost start from scratch. I don't know where you get your information from that the Greens minister delivered great outcomes.

Dr WOODRUFF - Fascinating narrative.

Ms ARCHER - Fascinating, we disagree, what a shock.

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, I have a question on the back of that. This comes from the RoGS. The prisoner rates per 100 000 in 2013-14 was 118. In 2021-22 it was 149. The rates of assaults of staff on prisoner, of prisoner on staff, of prisoner on prisoner have gone up during your Government.

Ms ARCHER - The assaults have not, no.

Dr WOODRUFF - Vanessa Goodwin, when she was the minister, released the Breaking the Cycle report 2016-20 which had 74 initiatives. In a 2018 progress report only four of them were marked as being completed. What is the current status of the remaining 70 initiatives from that 2016 report? Why haven't you updated the report since then?

Ms ARCHER - There are a number of questions there. I am not quite sure how -

Dr WOODRUFF - It is about the 70 initiatives. That is my question.

Ms ARCHER - There were three or four questions that I counted within that. As at 31 March this year the number of assaults on staff which have resulted in injuries and the number of assaults where no injuries have been sustained are both down.

Dr WOODRUFF - I didn't ask that question, but thank you very much. Relative to the period of the Greens Corrections minister. I am not talking about this year, I am talking about how much it has gone up.

Ms ARCHER - There is an allegation that assaults -

Well, don't mention it then.

Dr WOODRUFF - Go back to the time and make a reference between the two periods.

Ms ARCHER - I will correct the record.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, can you please allow the minister to answer the question, thank you.

Ms ARCHER - There is always this incorrect assumption that assaults have gone up, but it's not the case across the board that there's been an increase there. In relation to Dr Goodwin's actions, specifics of that I'll need to get on notice. I have said I'll release today a new plan that has our goals, our time frames as a result of consulting with no less than 100 stakeholders including inmates and correctional staff. I'm happy to go into that.

This is Breaking the Cycle implementation. There were 74 recommendations made. A significant amount of progress has been made to implement the recommendations with many becoming new policies, practices or procedures. Of the 74 recommendations, 47 recommendations have been delivered via improvements to existing business practice and are now part of core business. Six are complete or have been implemented. Key achievements include individual meetings with the ministers of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Health and Education to identify changes and practice leading to improve through-care outcomes.

Community Correction orders have been introduced to enable sentencing to a community rehabilitation program such as Sober Driver. The New Directions sex offender treatment program is offered to all eligible sex offenders, ensuring appropriate interventions are now available to support compulsory treatment of that cohort of convicted sex offenders. Relevant information regarding family circumstances is collected to inform case management of inmates and offenders.

Information and non-security related policies and procedures are published by the DPAC routine disclosures website and the Department of Justice website. Astria, our digital solution, will capture and provide opportunities for timely, accurate and relevant information to be shared among the stakeholders.

Of the 20 recommendations that are in progress, some have taken longer to implement due to a range of issues, including COVID 19. These recommendations will be reviewed as part of the development of the new plan and future progress determined as part of that process. There is one recommendation that has been placed on hold. This recommendation relating to the creation of a single organisation, namely Corrections Tasmania, is not addressed in the new plan. Dr Woodruff, I hope that provides a bit more detail on that.

Dr WOODRUFF - That's 21 not delivered out of the 74, is that right?, seven years later.

Ms ARCHER - There's 20 in progress and one on hold because it's something we are not addressing.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, can you tell us the numbers of people who have accessed alcohol and other drug counselling while they are in prison as well as the number of people who receive mental health support while they are in prison in the last year?

Ms ARCHER - We would need to get that from Correctional Primary Health Service.

Ms WEBSTER - We have got the answer, individual drug and alcohol counselling is provided to inmates in all the southern facilities, Hobart Reception Prison, Ron Barwick, Risdon Prison Complex and Mary Hutchinson. As at the 31 March 2023, there were 48 sentenced inmates receiving the service and 10 individuals accessing brief intervention on remand, that would be presumably at their request. There are 11 sentenced inmates on the wait-list. Of those wait-listed, 10 are housed in the medium or maximum rated facility in Risdon and one at Mary Hutchinson.

Ms ARCHER - We have put resources in this year's Budget to deal with alcohol and drug services and putting on more therapeutic staff, which I addressed in my opening statement.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, just clarify are they just drug and alcohol counselling support, not mental health services?

Dr WOODRUFF - You don't have anyone accessing mental health support or counselling services?

Ms ARCHER - We do, definitely do, Mr Thomas.

Mr THOMAS - We have a team of therapeutic service staff and trained psychologists. They will provide one to one counselling and support for prisoners who self refers or are referred to them. We have a multi-disciplinary team that works in conjunction with Correctional Primary Health that assess people on initial reception and at any time if they are referred. Depending on the nature of their presentation they will either be referred to the inhouse team I referred to or the we can refer them right through to be considered for admission into Wilfred Lopes Centre.