Ms O'CONNOR - In response to your response to my interjection earlier about your Government's law and order policies filling up the prisons, in fact in the lockdowns review document of 2020-21 the Custodial Inspector makes the observation that Tasmania's prison population has risen rapidly over the past few years.
It acknowledges that there's a new southern remand centre to cope with that increased load being built, but up to this point the prison system has largely absorbed the extra numbers by adding bunk beds to single cells, placing mattresses on cell floors, and adding new accommodation units or refurbishing older sometimes decommissioned units in the existing prisons.
Will you accept, minister, that as a result of your Government's policies around community orders, suspended sentences, its 'tough on crime' rhetoric, that the prisons population has increased as a result of Government policy?
Ms ARCHER - There are a number of factors as to why we have an increased prison population. Since the last Estimates our overall capacity has gone down. Members haven’t asked what the figure is today but I can give that shortly because I'm sure Mr Thomas has it. Our overall capacity is down. I'm not suggesting that we don't continue to address that. There are a number of reasons.
We have an escalation of certain types of crimes that relate to the increase in the scourge of drugs in our community. That can often lead to crime in relation to someone's addictions. I have freely admitted that we have in our maximum-security area more capacity issues than other areas of the prison. That's why we're looking forward to the southern remand centre. I don't think anyone can say that that's not needed.
The previously fastest-growing prison population was remandees. That's why we prioritised the Southern Remand Centre so that we could not only deliver best practice by separating remandees from the more general prison population but also so that we could deal with capacity issues. Having visited that facility, I'm quite excited about it. It shows what we can deliver with a modern facility. I can give members a description of what it's like. It has large windows, different colour schemes, those sorts of things that are conducive to someone's rehabilitation in the system, even though there not yet convicted, if they are convicted.
There is no one cause for these issues. I don't accept that there's this tough on crime approach in a lot of ways. I think that's also being unfair to the judiciary when we look at the statistics the uptake. I know that suspended sentences are down and the uptake of home detention and our alternative sentencing options of deferred sentencing have increased.
I'm really pleased that the judiciary and the magistracy have taken alternative sentencing options to keep people out of prison, and that we continue to look at a range of options. More people, hopefully, are able to be granted parole because it's now possible for them to be have electronic monitoring as a condition of parole. So, we can put people out into the community and consider community safety because of these options. I don't accept that tough on crime is the reason for an increased prison population.
Ms O'CONNOR - The data contradicts you.
Ms ARCHER - I don't know what data you're referring to, or whether it's anecdotal.
Ms O'CONNOR - Prison population since 2014.
Ms ARCHER - The population since the last Estimates has actually gone down. If you want to know the figure we're very happy to give it but it probably won't serve your question.