|About this Item||Subjects||Prisons and Prisoners; Prison escapes; Government Department: New South Wales: Corrective Services
||Speakers||Burke The Hon Tony; Hatzistergos The Hon John
||Business||Questions Without Notice
||Commentary|| Supplementary question
The Hon. TONY BURKE: My question is directed to the Minister for Justice. Can the Minister inform the House of the performance and productivity of NSW Corrective Services in the face of a steadily increasing inmate population?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: I thank the honourable member for that good question. The Report on Government Services 2004 shows that the department continued to perform strongly in a number of key indicators. This was despite the fact that there was a rise in the inmate population in 1998-99 from 6,884 to 7,983 in 2002-03. Dealing first with escapes, the Productivity Commission report shows that the escape rate from New South Wales correctional centres continues to be the lowest by far of any jurisdiction in Australia and the lowest since record keeping began in 1974. New South Wales lowered the escape rate from maximum and medium security from 0.1 in 2001-02 to zero in 2002-03—well below the national average of 2.37 in 2001-02 and 0.5 in 2002-03. The report also showed that the escape rate in New South Wales from minimum security fell from 1.37 in 2001-02 to 0.47 in 2002-03—again, well below the national average of 2.08 in 2001-02 and 1.53 in 2002-03.
The Hon. John Ryan: It is not as good on assaults though, is it?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: New South Wales has also lowered the escape rate from periodic detention from 0.4 in 2002 to zero in 2003, according to that report. The reasons for the dramatically reduced escape rate include expanded use of intelligence and security information; improvements in technology and surveillance; and assessment and case management of individual inmates, in particular, their eligibility for external vocational and educational programs. The Hon. John Ryan interjected by arguing that it was a different situation with assaults. The report in fact shows that the rate of serious assaults, resulting in actual bodily harm, by inmates upon inmates, decreased from 0.82 in 1999-2000 to 0.63 in 2002-03. The rate of non-serious assaults by inmates upon inmates decreased from 24.02 in 1999-2000 to 16.86 in 2002-03. The rate of serious assaults by inmates upon officers decreased from 0.03 in 1999-2000 to zero in 2002-03. The rate of non-serious assaults by inmates upon officers decreased from 1.93 in 1999-2000 to 1.4 in 2002-03.
The department employs a number of strategies aimed at reducing assaults, including various programs dealing with anger management, behaviour management, violence prevention and alternatives-to-violence projects. The department also has detoxification units at the two primary reception centres, that is, the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre and Mulawa. Detoxification units have also been incorporated into Bathurst, Grafton and Parklea. It should be noted that New South Wales is the only jurisdiction in Australia that operates a duty officer scheme, which ensures that each and every incident is recorded, no matter how minor.
Unlike other jurisdictions, New South Wales figures also include police cells and court cells, which are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrective Services and which receive a large number of offenders affected by alcohol and other drugs. In relation to unnatural deaths, the report shows that apparent unnatural deaths in New South Wales correctional centres continued to decrease, from 0.33 per 100 inmates in 1998-99 to 0.11 in 2002-03. Any unnatural death in custody is a tragedy, but the department's performance in this area indicates considerable improvement, particularly when compared to the national average of 0.10. With regard to employment, the Productivity Commission noted that the department continues to maintain a high percentage of inmates—[Time expired.]
The Hon. TONY BURKE: I ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister elucidate his answer?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: Yes, I can. It is important that these figures come to light because a number of honourable members with an interest in this area, such as the Hon. Tony Burke, would like to have them shared with the House.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: The Hon. Tony Burke has no standing—he's going to Canberra.
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: You did very badly on the weekend. Shut up and listen! With regard to employment, the Productivity Commission noted that New South Wales continues to maintain a high percentage of inmates in work while in custody, with 77.8 per cent employed in 2002-03, compared to the national average of 79.8 per cent. In relation to education, the report shows that 37.9 per cent of inmates are enrolled in a range of courses. The percentage undertaking vocational education and training increased from 21.1 per cent in 1998-99 to 24 per cent in 2002-03. Despite this glowing report card from the Productivity Commission, the department is not complacent and continues to exercise vigilance in its activities, with an aim to improving upon these results wherever possible.