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Risdon Prison - Overcrowding Causing Unrest

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tags: Corrections, Justice, Recidivism


The pressure cooker environment in Risdon Prison tells us everything about your Government's failure to manage it safely and in the public interest. There has been rioting at the prison, and yesterday's footage showed tear gas and special operations police; a dangerous environment. You said it is about nicotine patches, but really that was just the match that lit the powder keg. This is really about massive overcrowding. Cells designed for one are housing two to three prisoners, and that is causing the lockdowns. You refused to listen to prison staff who have been warning about this dangerous situation for a long time.

Under your watch, community correction workloads have blown out. Services to help ex-prisoners get jobs, find houses and recover from drug use are tokenistic, and the rate of reoffending has sky rocketed. Under a Greens corrections minister, recidivism rates were heading down, lockdowns were in the decline. Support for services for people exiting prison were funded. Minister, you are putting the safety and welfare of prison staff and inmates at risk. Will you admit you have lost control of your portfolio?


Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I note that it seems like a real tag team over there, a Labor-Greens tag team, blaming overcrowding as the cause for disruption of the prison system. It was a Greens minister who stood down the prison guards, the correctional officers themselves. In terms of supporting the correctional officers in the Tasmanian prison system, the Greens have a very good record. Of course the tag team, Cassy O'Connor and other people -

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Members opposite have asked a question. Allow the Minister to answer.

Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, clearly it is a Labor-Greens tag team. This is the choice that Tasmanians will have at the next election: a majority Hodgman Liberal Government or a Labor-Greens government working together - Rebecca White and Cassy O'Connor working together, in liaison.

As I said earlier, it is 93 per cent capacity. Clearly, the plan is in place to increase that capacity by 81, starting from July next year. In the previous budget and the most recent Budget, there was increased capacity.

Let us just go through it so that you know the exact details: $5 million in capital funding for new prison infrastructures being provided over three years in the recent Budget. That includes the Ron Barwick Minimum Security Prison by an additional 40 cells, and addresses issues arising from the aging infrastructure in that current facility. We are building four additional independent living units on the Risdon site, expanding the existing O'Hara cottages to provide pre-release accommodation for an additional 16 prisoners, and constructing a mother and baby unit for five extra women at the Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison. In addition to that, the extra 20 beds, as I have mentioned, in the previous budget to that, are all coming online from July next year.

The plan is in place. Since we have been in Government: 47 extra staff; plus increased resources. We are recruiting, as we speak, an extra 30 correctional officers.

It is disappointing that the Greens come in here, following the Leader of the Opposition, and have not put on the record their confidence in and congratulations to the Tasmania Prison Service officers and the management, who were put under considerable pressure yesterday, and responded in a professional way.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr BARNETT - Why would you not do that? Why would the Greens not do that; say, 'Congratulations. Well done.'? That is the first thing you should do; likewise to the Leader of the Opposition. The opposition policy is one which is soft on crime. I have made it very clear the disgust the Tasmanian community has at the comparison of paedophilia with drink-driving.

We have made it very clear that the Opposition has opposed mandatory jail time for serious sex offenders.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr BARNETT - That is a disgrace. The Tasmanian community will have their say on that matter.

Labor and the Greens oppose our tougher penalties for assaulting emergency service personnel, including correctional officers in the Tasmanian prison system - prison officers. We are trying to protect them from injury and inappropriate behaviour. To suggest, as Labor and the Greens are doing together, that the misbehaviour and inappropriate actions within the prison system is the cause of the overcrowding rather than the behaviour of the prisoners themselves, is a shameful allegation that is baseless and without foundation. They should face the facts and put on the record their congratulations for the Tasmanian Prison Service and get their facts together.