Page 2038 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 7 June 2017

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offenders from the public arena, as well as acting as a deterrent to potential offenders and a means for meeting society’s expectations for reparation, imprisonment may also foster further criminal behaviour.

The minister is mindful, no doubt, of these issues, and has sought to make inroads into the area via the ACT justice reform strategy and the extended through-care program. The ACT justice reform strategy, which commenced in mid-2014, examined, amongst other things, the influence of changes to sentencing practice on reducing crime and recidivism. The minister, in releasing this report on 6 February 2017, stated that the strategy’s key achievements included the new community-based sentencing framework involving intensive correction orders, and a significant expansion of the territory’s restorative justice system. This work forms part of the government’s justice reform program, and that aims to provide the right services and support for offenders with high and complex needs and their families, as per the government’s media release on 6 February 2017 regarding sentencing reform to target recidivism.

However, to date, from the data I have been able to interrogate, the program seems not to have actually reduced overall recidivism in the ACT. In March this year the minister released a review into the extended through-care program. Through care is voluntary, and provides support to detainees returning to the community at the end of their custodial sentence at the AMC. There are similar through-care programs running throughout Australia, according to the University of New South Wales review of January 2017.

The extended through-care pilot, also a voluntary program, was not mandated as part of any supervision order, and perhaps understandably. Initially, the program was limited to supporting prisoners prior to their release. The model has been extended to support clients into the community after their release, and was first funded in the 2012-13 financial year. While this post-release care model is not unique to the ACT, our extended through-care model is unique in offering support for 12 months, and in offering this service to former detainees without ongoing supervision orders, again per the University of New South Wales research. In short, the program supports an offender’s transition into the broader community.

The evaluation of the extended through-care pilot program was released in March this year. The evaluation was conducted by researchers at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. The researchers found that the program had achieved high uptakes and had a positive impact on clients beyond their time in custody. The review also claimed a reduction in recidivism of 22.6 per cent of participants. However, what does that number mean? Is it that 77.4 per cent of participants have reoffended or is it a reduction from the current 74 per cent from the 2016 ABS data to 51.4 per cent of reoffending? The recidivism rate seems still to stand at around 74 per cent, according to the ABS, from data from only last year.

In his ministerial statement on the extended through-care program pilot, the minister made the following statement:

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