Young Offenders Work Release Program



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SpeakersMutch The Hon Stephen; Hannaford The Hon John
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

YOUNG OFFENDERS WORK RELEASE PROGRAM

The Hon. S. B. MUTCH: Will the Attorney General, Minister for Justice and Vice President of the Executive Council confirm that last week he visited the Young Offenders Correctional Centre at Parklea, where he opened the State's first work release centre for young offenders? With the Leader of the Opposition recently conducting a two bob each way argument with himself over whether he supports work release, will the Minister advise the House whether the Opposition has indicated its support on this issue?

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I know that every member on this side of the Chamber joins the Hon. S. B. Mutch in supporting work release programs. He is quite right to ask about the policies of the Leader of the Opposition because of the Labor Party's clear schizoid attitude towards work release programs. The Leader of the Opposition has moved from one side of the table to another, like a ping-pong ball, trying to work out where he stands on the issue of work release. On one occasion he is at one end of the table and next he is trying to bounce his ball at the other end of the table. It is time the Opposition clearly stated where it stood on work release issues.

The Hon. S. B. Mutch: That would be the first time. No wonder he is cringing.

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: He has been so busy bouncing his members around from one seat to another, bouncing them in and out of preselection, that it is no wonder he keeps bouncing policies around. On a number of occasions I have said that the Government is committed to work release programs. Several weeks ago I said that the Government is sick and tired of witnessing the Leader of the Opposition trying to dredge up a Sunday story on the issue of correctional systems. I wait with bated breath for the next issue that Bob Carr comes out with to balance the view he expressed the week before.

The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: He could not have dealt with Peter Anderson as a form of work release.

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I guess that is right. At least he has been released from any work in the Parliament. Obviously he is now released from any need to worry about police administration. Bob Carr is now having problems with his right-wing faction trying to get agreement on who should replace Peter Anderson. He is not even game to take the issue to caucus. That is the reason the Government is so strong on these issues. I was pleased to visit Parklea to open the State's - indeed, the country's - first young offenders work release program. The Parklea work release program is most impressive.

I thank the officers who work with the young offenders for their dedication in maintaining the program because it has proved to be very successful. I was pleased to be present with so many supporters of the correctional system who were willing to congratulate the Government on the way in which it is pursuing innovative correctional service programs. Everyone was prepared to draw a direct comparison between the innovative programs of this Government and the lack of worthwhile Opposition policies. The only policies the Opposition is prepared to enunciate are those rejected by the unions and anyone who has any commitment to correctional service programs.

Rehabilitation of inmates and the programs in place must ensure that young inmates learn responsibility and are acclimatised to the outside world when they are released from prison. This program is working at Parklea, but the Opposition's approach has every prospect of jeopardising community acceptance of such programs. The Government will give inmates every encouragement. They will be urged to keep in close contact with their parents and families. This new young offenders centre will make that more possible than ever before. Visiting at the centre will be held in more pleasant surroundings.

While security checks will be kept as stringent as ever, inmates and their families will be able to spend more quality time together so that the family bonds, which will need to be consolidated when these people are released from prison, can be redeveloped and enhanced in the final months of the prisoner's sentence. Experience has shown that the closer the ties that exist between the families and these young inmates, the more likely it is that the inmate will not reoffend when released. All those involved in the young offenders program should be pleased with the work they are doing. They should look at the centre as an example of how successful they have been so far.

The centre that I opened last week is the last of three stages in the young offenders program, which tries to prepare young inmates to re-enter the world. The initial stages involve settling down young offenders in the original Parklea gaol and establishing them in a routine. They will go to Parklea Work Release Detention Centre after they have completed the Oberon program, which is designed to give them a sense of self-reliance and to rebuild their self-confidence. Young offenders will need to be deinstitutionalised and encouraged to find work so that they can cope with normal life. The more gradual the move into society, the more productive these young offenders will be in dealing with their circumstances and trying to pick up their lives outside gaol.

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This new work release centre will house 96 minimum security inmates at any one time. Those taking part in work release will be carefully screened, and potential employers will also be security screened. I recently instructed the department to put in place tighter controls on the screening of employers and the follow-up surveillance of inmates participating in the scheme. This will also apply at Parklea and will mean that even fewer problems will occur with the scheme and more inmates will complete their time with work experience and have the ability to find a job when released. I am informed that the Parklea local community has been consulted and completely supports the program. A number of community committee members congratulated the Parklea staff on the way the program is working; they commended the prisoners for their commitment to the program and indicated that the periodic detention centre program, which involves the schools in the Parklea community, is working very well. One of the people who approached me led the protest against the Parklea prison. That person, who is now a member of the community consultative committee, wanted to let me know that the community now completely accepts the Parklea community program and is supportive of that program.

The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: But you had to get a lot more prisoners to fill up the prison.

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I am proud of the way the gaols are working. It is a tribute to this Government that it is building better gaol facilities and improving their management in order to re-establish and rehabilitate the prisoners in the system.

The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: We are not having a crime wave. We are having a punishment wave.

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I will acknowledge the honourable member's interjection in order to put it on the record. She is clearly opposed to the courts imposing definitive punishment on offenders. If people commit crime in New South Wales they have to be prepared to do time in New South Wales gaols. The community totally supports the truth in sentencing program.

The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: The judges are not supporting it.

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: The judges are supporting it because they are imposing sentences. The community rejects the sort of approach the honourable member is enunciating. But I am happy for the Opposition to continue to trundle out these views. Every time the honourable member opens her mouth the Government gains an extra 1 per cent of community support. I am pleased that this type of approach is adopted by factions other than the left-wing of the Labor Party. Not only will that guarantee that the Government will keep the seats it has but it will guarantee that the Government will significantly increase its seats at the next election. The approach is totally rejected. I urge the honourable member to keep up her approach and to make certain that the Labor Party supports her views on dock statements, because that will guarantee community support for the Government.