Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Hayes Prison Farm

There is a problem...let's get to the bottom of it... fix it and move forward

Tasmania: Prison Action & Reform believes the management practices at the minimum security facility, Hayes Prison Farm need to be overhauled.

"Since late January there have been eight escapes and the question we need to ask is why? A pattern has developed here - one or two escapes may indicate a personal problem but eight indicates a deeper systemic problem." Caroline Dean, President of Prison Action and Reform said.

"Why have eight prisoners escaping and a lot of questions. Some had little time left to serve on their sentences and have now added custodial time to their sentence; they have lost their minimum security status; lost eligibility for parole; know that they will be moved back to Risdon Maximum security prison; and have an escape on their record. But perhaps the most important question to ask is, why have they chosen to escape now? What do all these factors have in common and what is the pattern indicating? Clearly this pattern is not indicating that this is just a case of a few people reacting negatively to news from home but a more concerning and complex problem."

Yesterday, Director of Prisons Graeme Barber, called for an immediate review into the prisoner's classification system.

Prison Action & Reform does not see this as the whole solution and the issue of overcrowding within the prison system must have an impact across the whole system including Hayes.

"The problem is more complex and deserves a more complex and thorough response. The investigation must include the issue of overcrowding and the classification system but also how prisoner's sentences are managed. In other words, an examination of the management practices of the farm." Caroline Dean said.

"If the State government is as interested in prison reform as they say they are, then this is the time to put their money where their collective mouth is. The community has listened to the rhetoric of prison reform and the ever present chant that the new prison will fix everything, but here is a classic problem that indicates structural and cultural problems. A new prison is not going to be able to fix that. This problem demands a systemic response."

Penal reform demands a multi-focus and constructive approach from all political parties and the community.

"It is easy for the Opposition to focus on gaining political mileage at the expense of good penal practice. It is not helpful to have a negative focus that blames prisoners for this problem. Prisoners do not have any legitimate platform within the prison system to disagree with decisions that are taken about them. This is not about individual prisoners escaping but why they are escaping. The Opposition would do well to demand an extensive investigation that uncovered the complexity of the problem and provided systemic solutions."

Prison Action & Reform over the last few years have seen the solutions to systemic problems within the prison system often resulting in punitive responses that directly and immediately impact on prisoners while the real problems go unresolved.

"Punitive responses have a direct impact on the community. These practices don't allow for a rehabilitative focus and instead contribute to creating more damaged people leaving the prison system. Ultimately the community pays the price through higher re-offending rates and less safe communities".

"We urge the State Government to get to the bottom of this problem. The problem demands a well thought out and constructive response."

Caroline Dean - 62 280292 - 0403 473 938
Vickie Douglas - 62 271420 - 0403 401 414

By PAR posted 8 March 05


Tough line on crime fills jails
The tough law-and-order policies of governments around the nation are behind an explosion in the prison population by almost 80 per cent in the past two decades.

Prison boom will prove a social bust
Hardened criminals are not filling NSW's prisons - the mentally ill and socially disadvantaged are, writes Eileen Baldry.

The prison system requires assiduous oversight
As NSW Attorney General Bob Debus noted in 1996: "The kinds of complaints which occur in the system may seem trivial to outsiders but in the superheated world of the prison, such issues can produce explosive results."

Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.