Prisons failed to predict demand
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.