Salvation Army wants more ex-prisoner rehabilitation from Corrections

The Salvation Army (Dan Satherly/Newshub.)
The Salvation Army (Dan Satherly/Newshub.)

The Salvation Army says Corrections is missing the mark when it comes to prisoner rehabilitation.

That's according to its latest report which argues the system isn't addressing the main causes of recidivism, and calls for a re-jig of the way funding is allocated.

It says last year over a third of ex-prisoners (36.5 percent) were reimprisoned within two years, and over half (57 percent) were reconvicted.

The report looked at the experiences of former prisoners - most who agree the Government is focusing all of its resources on programmes behind bars, rather than providing support to inmates outside the wire.

Research author Annaliese Johnston says many of the study's participants spoke of unemployment, homelessness and addiction after their release.

"A lot of the participants talk about how once they were out of the gate there was literally nothing for them, and whilst there are some really fantastic programmes out there, there really isn't enough," she says.

The Salvation Army says nearly $900 million a year is spent on housing inmates, and just a fraction of that $182 million a year is spent on rehabilitation and reintegration services.

"There's a real disparity there so we actually need to be refocusing that money and thinking about what is going to work in the long term. We need to think about what situation people are being released into if we want to stop crime," says Ms Johnston.

The latest report says the prison population is set to reach a record 10,000 inmates by 2017, and says there's some speculation we've hit that number already.

In October the Government announced it would spend a further $1 billion to add another 1800 prison beds which the Salvation Army believes sends the wrong message.

Ms Johnston says one former inmate put it simply: "Instead of the Government spending 90 grand to keep us in prison every year, why don't they invest it to keep us out?"

The Salvation Army released twelve recommendations to tackle the problem, including better access to accommodation and health services, private-public partnerships to provide employment and mentors.

It says one way to fund these would be to remove low-risk offenders from prisons and treat them in a community environment.

"There's some really great examples from overseas that we should be looking at. When you look at places like South and North Carolina they've actually saved millions in this whole process - they haven't had to spend more."

In a statement, Department of Corrections chief executive Ray Smith says: "Many of the issues outlined in the report are long-term and involve a cross section of the justice and social sector rather than Corrections-specific.

"The report also makes some recommendations in areas that fall under the responsibility of other Government agencies."