Yatala Labour Prison Incident (S3)

Legislative Council
Wednesday 28th of SEPTEMBER 2016

Yatala Labour Prison Incident

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:07 :11 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Corrections on the topic of working with the ALRM.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: As the minister is aware, and as we are all keenly aware with regard to the Morrison death in custody, the ALRM has issued a public statement. In that statement they have stated that this incident highlights the need for government to urgently address the situation of overcrowding in prisons, the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody and the need for greater resources to support and assist Aboriginal people in custody.

They have further called for the development of a memorandum of understanding between ALRM, Correctional Services and SAPOL, with a view to ensuring no further incidents occur in the future and to develop clear protocols and processes for transparency. My question to the minister is: does he accept that such a memorandum of understanding is required and will he implement and seek to make this happen?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:08 :19 ): I do not think a memorandum of understanding is required for the department to be able to facilitate the service of the unique needs that exist amongst Aboriginal offenders who find themselves within custody. Of course, I am happy to sit down with the ALRM and any other advocacy group advocating the cause and the interests of Aboriginal people, particularly those who find themselves in custody. I am happy to sit down with them at any stage and discuss the merits of any proposition they may have.

I want to restate for the record that I have not seen any evidence or suggestion that somehow overcrowding has had anything to do with the incident that transpired at Yatala Labour Prison last Friday that consequently was related to the passing of the prisoner to whom the honourable member refers. I have not seen any evidence or suggestion from the department, or any information presented to me, that suggests that is the case.

The honourable member is right to point out that we do have an over-representation of Aboriginal men and women within our correctional services system. Somewhere in the order of 22 per cent of the South Australian prison population is Indigenous. That figure is simply way too high, particularly considering that the Aboriginal population of South Australia is in the order of 3 per cent. It is a dramatic over-representation, and it is something that is of great concern to me. I think it is of great concern to many members of the community who are concerned for the interests of Aboriginal people.

I think the Department for Correctional Services is to be commended for the effort that it makes in order to seek to service the unique needs of those people who find themselves in custody who are of an Indigenous background. Let me just give a couple of examples of programs the department has in place to address this. There is the Aboriginal Services Unit. The Aboriginal Services Unit was established to service the needs of the department's Aboriginal stakeholders. It works across the Department for Correctional Services in partnership with Aboriginal community organisations, including the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and other government departments.

It develops and delivers culturally appropriate targeted services and programs to Aboriginal prisoners and offenders. The unit assists Aboriginal prisoners and offenders with their reintegration into the community. Another example is the Aboriginal Elders Visiting Program. The program consists of volunteer Aboriginal elders who visit prisoners across the state. The visits are conducted monthly and offer support in a culturally appropriate manner. Aboriginal elders assist prisoners in re‑establishing and strengthening their connection to family and the Aboriginal community.

The best thing that we can do to address the concerns around over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody, and indeed one of the best things we can do to address the strain that the honourable member referred to on our prison system, which we never hide away from, is to do something that is not just a short or medium-term strategy which will cost the South Australian taxpayers an awful lot of money, like building new facilities and having more beds, but to do something about the revolving door that exists within prison systems that we see across the west, and indeed throughout Australia.

Currently, as I have mentioned repeatedly in this place, we have a recidivism rate, or return to Corrections rate, that is in the order of 46 per cent. Now, 46 per cent is better than the national average. Already, South Australia is ahead of the game, but I genuinely believe that we can do more, which is why we have set a target of trying to reduce the rate of return to Corrections by 10 per cent by the year 2020. That is a bold and ambitious target. Work is already underway as we speak. It is bolder than anything that you guys have ever come up with.

On Friday, we have a meeting with stakeholders across the correctional services sector to work out what policies we can focus on and what efforts we can make to try to reach that target. It is going to be a big effort. It cannot just be the state government that is going to deliver services to get this result. We have to be focusing not just on what we are doing with people when they find themselves in custody, we also have to be looking at what services we are providing to people post custody and that particularly includes Aboriginal people post release.

I have spent a bit of time talking to Frank Lampard and representatives of APOSS. APOSS is an outstanding not-for-profit organisation seeking to work with Aboriginal offenders who have been released, to address their cultural needs and provide them with services that are uniquely targeted to the needs of Aboriginal people, with the view of reducing the likelihood of them returning to incarceration. These are organisations—

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: You need a budget for it, too, not just meetings.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: These are organisations that we want to be engaging with to see what ideas they might have—ideas that may not cost that much money and would make a big difference to the likelihood of whether or not someone reoffends post release. We have a strategy in place to take on the demands that exist in the prison system in the short, medium and long term. We are going to get on with the business and see if we cannot make a substantial shift in the focus of Corrections policy in this state.

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