Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Promoting Integration: The Provision of Prisoner Post-Release Services

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Promoting Integration: The Provision of Prisoner Post-Release Services

Article excerpt

One way that Australian correctional authorities can safeguard the community is by incapacitating offenders and keeping them away from potential victims. The community can also be protected in the longer term by minimising the likelihood of ex-prisoners reoffending after they are released. One strategy for reducing the risk of recidivism is the provision of treatment, services and support to prisoners during their incarceration and after their release. This approach is gaining prominence in Australia and internationally. It recognises that prisoners are confronted by a range of social, economic and personal challenges that can be barriers to a crime- free lifestyle.

This paper examines various issues linked to the provision of post-release services to prisoners, drawing on both international literature and a roundtable discussion held at the Australian Institute of Criminology in October 2002.

Toni Makkai

Acting Director

The majority of Australian prisoners will one day return to the community -of the more than 18,000 sentenced prisoners in custody at 30 June 2002, only about four per cent were serving "life" sentences (ABS 2003a). Although there are no precise statistics on the number of adult prisoners who return to the community each year, estimates place this figure at over 30,00O1 (see Baldry et al. 2002). For some offenders, prison experiences do not seem to have any deterrent or rehabilitative effect in preventing future offending. Figures indicate that around 58 per cent of the over 22,000 sentenced and unsentenced individuals incarcerated as at 30 June 2002 had been previously imprisoned (ABS 2003a). Of prisoners released in 1999-2000, 37.4 per cent had returned to prison by 2001-02 (SCRCSSP 2003).

The costs of imprisonment are high: in 2001-02, average recurrent expenditure per prisoner per day in Australia was $155 (SCRCSSP 2003). The costs of crime are also high (Mayhew 2003), so it would be of benefit to the whole community if the rate of recidivism among ex-prisoners could be reduced. However, the greatest benefits to the community would accrue if ex-prisoners not only ceased to reoffend, but also productively contributed to community life, and integrated into the life and activities of mainstream society. Some have referred to this process as reintegration, although this term implies that prisoners were once integrated, which, given the range of disadvantages typically experienced by prisoners, makes the term somewhat inappropriate (see Ward 2001).

Returning Prisoners to the Broader Australian Community

The post-release management of Australian offenders varies with jurisdiction. In general, though, offenders can be released on license or parole, on intensive supervision orders or on temporary release orders. The responsibility for the management of these offenders typically belongs to community correctional staff (SCRCSSP 2003). Offenders can also be released unconditionally into the community upon completion of their sentences. Government correctional agencies do not provide postrelease services or supervision to this group, although nongovernment and faith-based organisations can provide welfare and other services.

Official statistics show that there was an average of over 8,400 ex-prisoners on parole orders in 2002 (ABS 2003b).2 If over 30,000 convicted prisoners are released each year, the majority are not subject to parole supervision. It has traditionally been accepted that around one-third of prisoners will be released on parole, although preliminary data from a recent research project suggest that rates vary between jurisdictions and that even when released on parole, prisoners may not always have the opportunity to meet with a parole officer before release (see Baldry et al. 2002). Not all parolees may receive sufficient pre- and postrelease contact with parole officers to improve their chances of successful community integration.

"Throughcare" refers to treatment and support that commences in custody and continues after release into the community. …

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