Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT
Tabled paper 934
Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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30 WOMEN IN PRISON II Women in Prison II revisited similar issues to those discussed in a 2008 Ombudsman report, in the context of conditions faced by women in the Alice Springs Womens Correctional Facility. The investigation was initiated in light of a range of complaints about conditions and analysis which shows the number and proportion of female prisoners in the NT has grown rapidly in recent years. Combined with substantial growth in male prisoner numbers, this put enormous pressure on the correctional system and sub-standard conditions for female prisoners persisted. The report noted that, in Alice Springs, rapid growth in numbers and limited facilities contributed to a broad range of problems for female prisoners, including: Chronic overcrowding (growing numbers in a limited space, inside a male prison) Housing and facility issues (wear and tear, not enough amenities) Limits on education and rehabilitation programs Limits on employment opportunities Issues with health care of prisoners, including At Risk prisoners Problems with the basics (clothing, hygiene, food and recreational activities) Cultural issues for the predominantly Indigenous population Language and communication issues for the predominantly Indigenous population Inadequate arrangements for housing children with their mothers. The report concluded that the fundamental purpose of the correctional system should be rehabilitation and that, in order to promote rehabilitation, solutions must be designed with specific prisoner groups in mind. To that end, there must be: solutions designed specifically for women; solutions designed specifically for Indigenous women; involvement of Indigenous stakeholders and communities in both design of solutions and delivery of solutions. The report noted the potential for the young women in prison today to contribute positively to their families and their communities in the future. However, it concluded the chances are that without substantial support and guidance many will instead be in and out of the justice and health systems for decades to come. It stated that we cannot, as a society, financially or morally afford to allow this situation to continue. The report called for a transformational shift in the correctional system towards rehabilitation and reintegration. It concluded that, as a community, we need to acknowledge that things will only get better if we invest in the future of offenders. We need to explore alternatives to custody and create an environment in custody and afterwards that encourages and assists people to build better lives for themselves, their families and their community. We need to facilitate non-offending. The report stated that the public debate must be reframed. Government and the community must be in this for the long haul. Different approaches must be trialled. False starts or missteps must be seen as part of the long term development process. In such a complex area, mistakes will be made. People will falter. These should be accepted as lessons for the future rather than signs of crisis or collapse. This approach requires long term investment not limited by annual reporting or electoral cycles. The whole structure of the correctional system has to be aimed at rehabilitation, breaking away from traditional stone wall models.