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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Northern Prison


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Tags: Northern Prison, Corrections, Recidivism, Westbury, Custodial Inspector

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, it is interesting listening to both Labor and Liberal members utterly failing their communities. It is sad to hear the tone of this debate, which totally misses the point that what is good for Tasmania is putting money into restorative justice. The fact that the Liberal Party is pushing to spend $170 million at minimum, with $40 million a year in recurrent operating costs at minimum on housing yet more prisoners, is an admission of devastating failure on their part because of their tough-on-crime policies which is seeing the Risdon Prison Complex bursting at the seams. The number of people there has increased dramatically.

I note a media release I talked about in November 2016, three years ago now. At that time there were 470 people on average a day, but by 2016 it had blown out to 550 a day. I do not have the latest numbers now, but it is certainly the case that it is much higher than that.

This is what has happened under the Liberal Government's policies which have been relentlessly cruel and punitive, withdrawing money from successful services like the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders - REO - program which they cut in the first year that they came in. They cut a program being run by the Salvation Army, REO, that cost a mere $260 000 a year at the time. It saved more than $1 million. It ensured that people who left the Risdon Prison complex and other parts of the prison system in Tasmania were being housed and supported to reintegrate with their community so that the road blocks in their life could be removed and they could find jobs and deal with drug addiction and reintegrate in society. That successful program REO was defunded. This was despite the fact that by the time the Liberals defunded it, it was successfully reducing the rates of reoffending of people going through that program to zero per cent.

Meanwhile, the rate of reoffending has gone up, year on year. Recidivism has gone up, year on year, under the Liberal Government. The Greens corrections minister, Mr Nick McKim had seen the rate of reoffending in Tasmania go down under his good policies and operation of the Risdon prison complex. Not only that, assaults from staff to prisoners, from prisoners to staff and from prisoners to prisoners, the rates of serious assaults were going down. Instead what is happening now is that they are going up. This is a failed approach. It has been a litany of five-and-a-half years of failure and the fact that both the Labor and the Liberal parties are committed to a northern prison is a shame on both of them.

It is an indication of how woefully out of step they are with successful models that are being employed by other jurisdictions that provide for safer communities. They provide for people to be able to recover from drug addiction so that they do not reoffend, so that they do not steal, so that there is less violent crime in the community and so that families can come back together again, families who have suffered abuse and trauma and living in poverty. Those are the families most at risk of circumstances that lead to offending. They are the ones that need our support. They do not need us to make a decision. This Government to make a decision, to spend $170 million on building a prison to lock up more people.

In Westbury, we have a community that has not been consulted. That is not surprising. This Government never consults. It just decides and then it cooks up a faux consultation process, as occurs on every issue. I am deeply sympathetic and concerned on behalf of the Westbury residents that they are not being listened to. I do not think they will be listened to. The evidence of the Government in every other portfolio area is that community residents are not listened to. The Government makes a decision behind closed doors, employs a consultant at vast expense to go off and design something, and then will go ahead, regardless of the community concerns.

We need to be looking at what is happening in Ashley. Ashley Youth Detention Centre in Deloraine is a detention centre for young people which must be closed because it fails on every measure. The custodial youth inspector's report made that abundantly clear. Issues to do with isolation, the use of force, manifestly inadequate security practices at the prison all point to a totally failed model of rehabilitation for those young people. That should be closed and what we have is 50 beds in a prison which is sitting there, already accepted by a community, already functioning in a place in the north.

Why is the Government not looking into closing down Ashley? Why does the Government not put the money into rehabilitation for young people, put the money into supporting people who are leaving the Risdon prison complex so that they do not reoffend? Put that operational $40 million a year into supporting people with proper drug treatment programs.

There are 50 beds, they are already sitting there. There is already a prison. You have already spent the money. This is how we should be investigating the issues for people in the north, not inflicting a prison where people do not want it.