Justice 2016

Overcrowding in the NSW prison system continues to worsen along with the backlog of cases in the District Court, according to a report released today by the New South Wales Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford on the annual financial statements audits in the Justice cluster.

Overcrowding in the NSW prison system increased in 2015-16 and may worsen

The report noted that overcrowding in the NSW prison system worsened in 2015-16. The average occupancy rate has increased to 122 per cent of the prison system’s design capacity, compared to 112 per cent in 2014-15. Overcrowding is expected to remain high or worsen over the next two years while prisons are being expanded or constructed.

‘Increases in the operational capacity of the prison system are not keeping pace with increases in inmate numbers’, Ms Crawford said. ‘If overcrowding in the prison system is not addressed, rates of reoffending may worsen’.

According to Corrective Services, a buffer of 5 per cent in the operational vacancy rate is needed for the effective management of prisons. At 30 June 2016, the rate was only 1.2 per cent, and this fell to less than 1 percent at 30 September.

‘The Department of Justice should determine if planned capital investment is sufficient to efficiently and effectively manage inmates over the next two to three years’, Ms Crawford continued.

The backlog of cases in the NSW District Court is more than double acceptable levels

The backlog of cases in the NSW District Court has grown every year since 2011, reaching 2,005 cases in June 2016. The District Court has determined 1,000 pending cases is an acceptable level.

Over the last 12 months, the age of cases also continued to increase with cases older than 12 months increasing by 20 per cent, and those older than 24 months by 68 per cent.

Ms Crawford highlighted that ‘The backlog means more people are being held on remand while they wait for trial. This is estimated to be costing the State $221,000 per day or $80.8 million a year, and is contributing to prison overcrowding’.

Revenue from casino operations is not being independently verified

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is not obtaining assurance, independent from the casino operator, that it is receiving all revenue it should under the Casino Control Act 1992.

In 2015–16, the Authority collected $290 million ($256 million in 2014–15) from the casino operator. Of this, $272 million ($239 million) was calculated by the casino operator based on player turnover. These amounts were not independently verified.

“The Authority should obtain independent assurance that the revenue it collects from the casino operator is complete and accurate,” Ms Crawford said. ‘It is not sufficient for the Authority to simply rely on calculations performed by the casino operator’.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664 and email barry.underwood@audit.nsw.gov.au.