Prisons failed to pre­dict de­mand

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - DAVID KILLICK Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

THE Tas­ma­nia Prison Ser­vice has failed to ac­cu­rately ac­count for ris­ing pris­oner num­bers, leav­ing it strug­gling to cope with staff short­ages and with bal­loon­ing over­time bud­gets, the Au­di­tor Gen­eral has found.

Rod White­head’s re­port into the Tas­ma­nia Prison Ser­vice’s use of re­sources was handed down yes­ter­day.

He said the ser­vice had failed to ac­count for the im­pact of changes in govern­ment pol­icy, polic­ing, court clear­ance rates and broader eco­nomic trends.

“TPS had not had a strong ap­proach to mod­el­ling of fu­ture in­mate num­bers and as­so­ci­ated staffing to en­sure it had suf­fi­cient re­sources to run its prisons safely and se­curely,” he said.

“Mod­el­ling used for pre­dict­ing in­mate num­bers re­lied on a back­ward view and had not been pre­dic­tive enough.

“This led to TPS strug­gling to cope with changes in govern­ment pol­icy and sen­tenc­ing, which sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased the num­bers of in­mates dur­ing the five-year pe­riod to June 30, 2018.

“In short, TPS did not have enough cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers to ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently run the prison ser­vice.”

The Tas­ma­nia Prison Ser­vice has ex­ceeded its salary bud­get by a to­tal of $10 mil­lion since 2013-14.

The re­port called for better gov­er­nance to be put in place – although ques­tioned whether enough peo­ple were avail­able to de­velop it, due to staff short­ages.

Tas­ma­nia had 692 prison in­mates at June 30 and 348 cor­rec­tion of­fi­cers. The state’s prison ser­vice costs $58 mil­lion a year to run.

But staffing lev­els meant the ser­vice was not be­ing run as well as it could be, Mr White­head said in his re­port.

“In re­cent times, de­spite the use of over­time, there have not been enough staff ros­tered on to run the ser­vice ef­fec­tively,” the re­port said.

“This re­sulted in the in­creased fre­quency and du­ra­tion of prison lock­downs, re­quir­ing in­mates to re­main in their cells for longer pe­ri­ods of time.

“With­out these en­forced mea­sures, in­mates and prison staff, safety and se­cu­rity would be at risk.”

Cor­rec­tions Min­is­ter Elise Archer said the De­part­ment of Jus­tice and the Prison Ser­vice were work­ing to ad­dress the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port – and a new prison was planned for the state’s North.

Greens jus­tice spokes­woman Ros­alie Woodruff said the re­port made it clear the very sub­stan­tial prob­lems were the re­sult of the Lib­eral Govern­ment’s “tough on crime” agenda.

La­bor cor­rec­tions spokes­woman Ella Had­dad said Govern­ment fail­ures had caused lock­downs to more than dou­ble – with pris­on­ers spend­ing a com­bined 344,000 hours in their cells.

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