‘Shocking’ lack of rehab and support
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.