‘Shock­ing’ lack of re­hab and sup­port

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - AM­BER WIL­SON

A PRISON re­form ad­vo­cate has slammed the Govern­ment for what he says are Tas­ma­nia’s worst jail con­di­tions — thanks to a “shock­ing” lack of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices for of­fend­ers on short sen­tences.

Tas­ma­nian Pris­on­ers Le­gal Ser­vice chair Greg Barns said Ris­don Prison was cur­rently “grossly un­der­staffed”, with few re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion op­tions.

“Con­di­tions have never been worse than un­der the cur­rent Tas­ma­nian Govern­ment be­cause they have no com­mit­ment to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion,” he said. “When you go into jail, you leave worse than when you went in.”

He said the ser­vice ran monthly clin­ics at Ris­don, and the lack of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion op­tions and al­lied health sup­port were the big­gest com­plaints it re­ceived.

Mr Barns said the sys­tem was puni­tive rather than re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive, and while there were “some pro­grams” in prison, “a lot of it is about the lack of staff, the lack of money”.

His con­cerns come as Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Rob White­head’s re­port was this week handed down into the Tas­ma­nia Prison Ser­vice’s use of re­sources, not­ing a “back­ward view” of mod­el­ling used on in­mate num­bers and staffing.

Mr Barns’s sen­ti­ments were echoed by Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia crim­i­nol­o­gist Rob White, who said pris­on­ers in jail for mi­nor crime were not helped to be­come “a bet­ter per­son”. Prof White said pris­on­ers in jail for mi­nor crimes should be given mean­ing­ful work in the com­mu­nity rather than locked up.

“The mes­sage is clear: we do not care about you, be­cause of what you have done and who you are. Yet, sev­eral months or years later, the imprisoned are some­how meant to exit these en­vi­ron­ments en­light­ened and re­formed,” he said. “A bet­ter per­son is not built by be­ing locked in a room and shouted at or con­stantly liv­ing in fear.”

A Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman said the Tas­ma­nia Prison Ser­vice of­fered a num­ber of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and treat­ment op­tions that var­ied in length.

“All sen­tenced pris­on­ers are el­i­gi­ble to be con­sid­ered for pro­grams of­fered in the area of the prison in which they are housed, if their sen­tence al­lows them to com­plete a pro­gram be­fore their sched­uled re­lease,” the spokesman said.

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