Mrs O’CONNOR – In response to your response to my previous intervention about your government’s policing policies filling prisons, in fact, in the 2020-21 lockdown review document, the Detention Inspector made observe that Tasmania’s prison population has grown rapidly in recent years. .
He acknowledges that there is a new remand house in the south to deal with this increased load being built, but so far the prison system has largely absorbed the extra numbers by adding bunk beds to single cells. , placing mattresses on cell floors and adding new accommodation. or renovate older, sometimes disused units in existing prisons.
Will you accept, Minister, that because of your government’s policies on community ordinances, conditional sentences, its “tough on crime” rhetoric, that the prison population has increased as a result of government policy?
Mrs ARCHER – There are a number of factors that explain why we have an increased prison population. Since the last Estimates, our overall capacity has declined. Members have not asked what the number is today, but I can give it shortly because I am sure Mr Thomas has it. Our overall capacity is declining. I’m not saying we don’t continue to tackle this. There are many reasons.
We have an escalation of certain types of crime related to the increasing drug scourge in our community. This can often lead to somebody’s addiction related crimes. I freely admit that we have more capacity issues in our maximum security area than in other areas of the prison. That is why we are eagerly awaiting the southern remand center. I think no one can say that it is not necessary.
Previously the fastest growing prison population was pre-trial detainees. That is why we have given priority to the South Remand Center so that we can not only apply best practices in separating detainees from the more general prison population, but also to be able to deal with capacity issues. Having visited this facility, I am very excited about it. It shows what we can offer with a modern facility. I can give members a description of what it is. There are big windows, different color combinations, that sort of thing that helps somebody get back into the system, even though they’re not yet convicted, if they’re convicted.
There is no one cause for these problems. I do not accept that there is this harsh approach to crime in many ways. I think it’s also unfair to the judiciary when you look at the adoption statistics. I know conditional sentences are dropping and the use of house arrest and our alternative conditional sentence options have increased.
I am really delighted that the judiciary and the judiciary have chosen alternative sentences to prevent people from going to jail, and that we are continuing to look at a range of options. Hopefully more people can get parole, as it is now possible for them to have electronic monitoring as a condition of parole. So we can put people in the community and consider the safety of the community through these options. I do not accept that the suppression of crime is the reason for the increase in the prison population.
Mrs O’CONNOR – The data contradicts you.
Mrs ARCHER – I don’t know what data you’re referring to, or if it’s anecdotal.
Mrs O’CONNOR – Prison population since 2014.
Mrs ARCHER – Since the last Estimates, the population has actually gone down. If you want to know the number, we are very happy to give it to you, but it probably won’t serve your question.