By Paul Dobbyn
CATHOLIC Prison Ministry co-ordinator Dave Martin has warned rehabilitation of prisoners from Queensland prisons was being threatened by inadequate post release accommodation and other services.
The unsatisfactory situation is threatening the safety of the wider community, he said.
Mr Martin’s warnings follow findings in the recently released report Post Release Services for Prisoners in South-East Queensland commissioned, reviewed, edited and finalised by the Centacare-run ministry.
The report is part of the CPM’s Queensland Prison Report 2013.
“It is essential the State Government looks at providing some male and female prisoner-specific transitional accommodation in Brisbane and in the four regional areas where there are prisons located,” Mr Martin said.
“These areas are Maryborough, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns, along with some of the Indigenous communities where so many residents are in prison and may not have a home to be released to.”
Another finding of Post Release Services for Prisoners in South-East Queensland is that prisoners are not receiving adequate support during their critical first six months of release when they are most vulnerable to re-offending.
“If people being released from prison are not given the intense support they need, there is a very real risk of them returning to risky behaviours and possibly committing crimes,” Mr Martin said.
Queensland’s prison population has swollen by a record 23 per cent – or 1268 prisoners – in the period starting shortly after the LNP won government.
There are now 6898 prisoners in the state, compared with 5600 in June 2012.
It costs $70,000 a year to keep a prisoner in a Queensland prison, according to figures from corrective services.
“Post Release Services for Prisoners in South-East Queensland” was written by law students from the Manning Street Project, a partnership between the University of Queensland Pro Bono Centre and Caxton Legal Centre.
Mr Martin said the report had been commissioned following informal feedback received indicating a level of dissatisfaction with the Queensland Corrective Services-funded Offender Reintegration Support Service.
“There are also reintegration issues such as mental and physical ill health, substance abuse, homelessness, social isolation, and unemployment.”
Mr Martin said the success of CPM’s Reintegration Support Program showed a more promising response to post release challenges.
“The program, which has assisted released prisoners for almost five years, is testament to the difference that can be made in people’s lives in relation to recidivism,” he said.
“Those in the program have a level of around 15 per cent recidivism compared to the national average of around 65 per cent of people returning to prison in their lives.”
Queensland Corrective Services did not respond before publication deadlines.