Therapeutic programs in prisons

Corrective Services NSW should ensure eligible prisoners receive timely programs to reduce the risk they will reoffend on release, according to a report released today by the NSW Acting Auditor-General, Ian Goodwin.

The report found that in 2015−16, 75 per cent of prisoners who needed a prison-based therapeutic program did not receive one before the earliest date they could be released. Timely access to prison-based therapeutic programs can be a factor in parole refusal and can potentially exacerbate overcrowding in the prison system. The audit looked at a selection of moderate and high intensity programs that aim to reduce reoffending by addressing addiction, violence, domestic abuse, sex offending and general offending.

Corrective Services NSW could do more to better target and evaluate its programs. Corrective Services NSW does not collect detailed enough information on the reasons for program non-completion to identify and address barriers to participation. Corrective Services NSW could also better address some gaps in available programs to respond to higher intensity therapeutic needs.

In August 2016, Corrective Services NSW was allocated an additional $237 million for initiatives to reduce reoffending. Additional funding is proposed to be used to hire additional staff including 157 case management officers to ensure that offenders participate and complete rehabilitative programs. This may alleviate some of the stresses on current resources. In support of the effective rollout of new initiatives, Corrective Services NSW could do more to systematically evaluate its programs to ensure existing and new programs are achieving desired outcomes. While the programs are based on a large volume of international evidence, little conclusive evidence for their effectiveness in the context of the NSW prisons system is available. 'Going forward, Corrective Services should implement more systematic and thorough evaluations, that identify and solve data gaps, to ensure that its programs are achieving their goal of reducing reoffending,' the Acting Auditor-General said.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664 and email