Page 2037 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 7 June 2017

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(e) outside of the Extended Throughcare Program, what government/non-government organisations have been engaged to facilitate inmates re-entering the community, what funding is provided to these organisations and what services is the funding for.

As shadow minister for corrections, I am pleased to stand here today and speak to the motion in my name seeking some clarity around figures that have been promoted around our recidivism rates. Australia has high recidivism rates and, while data experts wrestle with how to measure recidivism, there is general acceptance that a good starting point is to measure the number of those who have been previously imprisoned, or imprisoned again.

In 2007 the Australian Institute of Criminology reported that around 60 per cent of those in custody in Australia have been in prison before. Twenty years on, recidivism rates are still high. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Prisoners in Australia, 2016 report found that 56 per cent of Australian prisoners had previously been imprisoned. Of greater concern to me, here in this place, was that the ACT had the highest rate, with 74 per cent.

From studies that have been undertaken, there is consensus that reoffending behaviour or recidivism can be influenced by factors including poor education and employment histories, mental illness, and poor physical health, as per our previous debate, as well as drug and alcohol misuse. Age and being Indigenous, unfortunately, are also risk factors in Australia.

Previous offenders need intensive support to prevent recidivism, including environments that enable them to safely address areas where they may be vulnerable to reoffending. Internationally, such programs that work are tailored to the individual, and rolled out in safe environments.

International literature supports the idea that an essential role of the prison is to provide an environment that reduces the risk of reoffending. Many offenders have education and skill levels well below the Australian average, and are more likely to be unemployed, which has an impact on their health and ability to find housing. The introduction of vocational education and training programs as part of prisoner rehabilitation offers opportunities for offenders to reduce this disadvantage, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful reintegration to the community, and reducing risk of reoffending, as per the advice of the Australian Institute of Criminology.

They also had a study into reducing recidivism through vocational education and training, and examined the impact of education on reoffending behaviour. It looked at the results of a Queensland vocational education and training program that showed an offender’s chance of returning to prison after two years was 32 per cent for non-participants in the program compared with 23 per cent for those who had participated. So work skills and education are key.

One of the highest risk factors for recidivism, however, is imprisonment. While imprisonment aims to prevent crime and enhance community safety by removing

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