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Question and Answer Tracking Details

3386 - WOMEN IN PRISON

Greenwich, Alex to the Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections
  1. What review has the Government carried out of the Keeping Women out of Prison report showing a 33 per cent increase in the number of women in prisons between March 2013 and June 2019?
    1. Is this an accurate report on prison numbers?
    2. Is there an increase in numbers of women on remand rather than increased crime?
    3. Are three times as many women released each year than are in prison at any one time due to remand and short sentences?
  2. What is the estimated additional cost of this increased incarceration?
  3. Are Indigenous women over-represented in prison and are they the fastest growing demographic?
  4. Are women with disability, women with mental illness, and women who have experienced trauma and abusive relationships also over-represented?
  5. Is there a 40 per cent recidivism rate in the 12 months after release and is this increasing?
  6. What proportion of women leaving prison receive support services?
  7. How does the Government ensure early engagement with women in prison in order to prevent homelessness on release?
  8. What community based services and interventions has the Government introduced to divert women from prison and reduce reoffending?
  9. What plans does the Government have to expand and develop increased diversion and rehabilitation programs for women?
Answer -

I am advised:

  1. The Government has received the Profile of Women in Prison in NSW Report and is committed to addressing the overrepresentation of marginalised women across the New South Wales criminal justice system including those in prison. Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) meets regularly with the Keeping Women Out of Prisons Coalition (KWOOP), the organisation that commissioned the report, and shares KWOOP's vision for securing better outcomes for women and children affected by the New South Wales criminal justice system.
    1. Yes.
    2. Analysis of the population of women on remand can be found in the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research Report Recent trends in the NSW female prison population.
    3. For the calendar year 2019, there was a total average of 971 women in custody per day and 2702 women were released from prison. As such, the number of women released is 2.8 times the number of women in prison on a given day. However on 30 June 2019, there were 433 women in custody on remand or serving a short sentence. For the calendar year 2019, 1668 women were released from prison from remand or after serving a short sentence. Therefore the number of women released from remand or from a short sentence is 3.9 times the number of women in prison on remand or on a short sentence on a given day. Women released from remand and short sentences make up 62% of all women exiting prison.
  2. The overall daily average cost per inmate is reported in the Australian Government Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2020. The gender of inmates is not taken into account in calculating the cost per prisoner per day.
  3. As at 1 June 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women represent 34.5 per cent of the total inmate population. Whether or not they are the fastest growing cohort depends on the timeframe of reference. However since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in custody has fallen from 341 on 1 December 2019 to 285 on 1 June 2020.
  4. The Government acknowledges that women inmates are more likely to have suffered trauma in their lives (including sexual abuse), and to experience substance abuse and mental health issues.
  5. Re-offending rates for New South Wales and other Australian jurisdictions are reported in the Australian Government Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2020. It is important to recognise that the re-offending measure is retrospective as it is measured in the 12 month period after release from custody and a further six months is required for the courts to make determinations of guilt for offences that have occurred during this period and for the data to be cleaned up. As the measure is retrospective, reoffending rates will be observed over the next 12 months.
  6. This data is not kept centrally. Referrals for women exiting custody are provided by a range of areas within the Department of Communities and Justice. This includes Offender Services and Programs staff, the CSNSW Funded Partnership Initiative, Community Corrections and Family and Community Housing. The Report commissioned by KWOOP pays insufficient attention to the efforts of Community Corrections staff who currently provide supportive supervision to 590 women on parole (as at 28 June 2020).
  7. CSNSW has a suite of initiatives that minimise the risk of homelessness for offenders following release from custodial centres and community corrective services. This includes the NEXUS program. NEXUS is an offender-centred approach to reintegration, commencing when a person enters custody, during which CSNSW staff assist inmates to plan their release back into their chosen community including their accommodation needs.
  • Community Corrections works with the offender between six to 12 months prior to their release. As part of the preparation for release, Community Corrections assesses the needs of the offender in relation to housing and support.
  • A number of programs are funded through the Funded Partnership Initiative which can also be used by Community Corrections to provide support on release to those who may require a higher level of support, or do not have appropriate accommodation available in the community. This includes Transitional Supported Accommodation; Initial Transitional Support and the Extended Reintegration Service. Information is available on the CSNSW website.
  • The Department of Communities and Justice also provides housing and reintegration assistance for people who have exited custody including temporary accommodation on the day of exit and reductions in rent payable on public housing.
  • Further questions on homelessness should be directed to the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services as this falls within his portfolio responsibilities.
  1. & (9) The Government recognises the importance and value of diversion programs as a way to reduce the number of women in custody, who could be managed effectively in the community without compromising community safety.
  • CSNSW currently operates Miruma, a residential community-based diversionary program for female offenders with co-existing disorders. Miruma aims to provide high level of effective case management to address offending behaviour and provide the female residents with the skills to be able to live independently and productively in the community.
  • Other Programs available for women include the Intensive Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program, a treatment facility incorporating a range of therapeutic, health, education, vocation and pre-release interventions aimed at addressing substance dependence, offending behaviour and reintegration.
  • The Department of Communities and Justice also supports and recently funded the Miranda Project, a community based diversionary program for women, which aims to halt the increase in the women's prison population through the provision of genuine support and the development of alternative pathways within the community.
  • CSNSW is developing further work around diversion linked to the new Premier's Priority announced in June 2019, which aims to reduce re-offending by adults released from prison by 5% by 2023.
  • Further questions on other diversionary programs delivered by the Department of Communities and Justice should be directed to the Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence as these fall within his portfolio responsibilities.
Question asked on 4 June 2020 (session 57-1) and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 65
Answer received on 9 July 2020 and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 69