Thursday 16 November 2017
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Risdon Prison - Accommodation of Extra Inmates
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) to the LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT
- Given this House will be asked to consider two bills - mandatory sentencing for assault on off-duty police officers and the abolition of suspended sentences - which, if they become law, will increase prison population, can the Government indicate how these extra prisoners will be accommodated?
- What is the present population of Risdon Prison compared to its design capacity?
- How many cells are occupied by three rather than two inmates?
Mr President, I thank the member for Rosevears for his question.
- The Sentencing Advisory Council observed on page 26 of its final report on phasing out suspended sentences that it is not as straightforward as saying all those who would have received a suspended sentence will otherwise go to prison. The SAC also stated, on page 35, that evidence shows providing credible alternative sanctions that judicial officers are prepared to use can prevent any significant rise in prison population. Before suspended sentences are abolished, the full range of community-based alternatives will have been implemented.
Following the reintroduction of suspended sentences in New South Wales in 2000, a 2014 study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found the introduction of suspended sentences led to an increase in that state's prison population.
The Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council's previous research and the sentencing data examined in its 2016 report 'indicate abolition of suspended sentences has not driven the increase in prison population'.
The only legislation passed for which mandatory minimum sentencing is provided is section 16A of the Sentencing Act 1997, which commenced on 17 December 2014. No prisoners have been incarcerated as a result of this provision, indicating the laws have a strong deterrent effect.
The Government has funded 81 new prison beds in recent budgets and increased recurrent funding for the Prison Service by $11 million per annum as well as $7.5 million for various capital projects. These infrastructure developments will begin coming online by mid 2018.
- At the Risdon Prison site (Risdon Prison, Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison and the Ron Barwick Minimum Security Prison) the design capacity is 583. The number of prisoners as at 10 November 2017 was 558.
In the last two budgets the Government has provided funding for 81 new beds to begin coming online by July 2018.
- On 10 November 2017 no cells were occupied by three prisoners.