Volume Seven 2015 Part One Law and Order
Many factors are contributing to the overcrowding of the NSW prison system. This is in turn putting pressure on operations in the courts, and could ultimately impact rates of reoffending.
'According to the Corrective Services NSW Commissioner, a buffer of 5 per cent in the operational vacancy rate is needed for the effective management of prisons', the Acting Auditor-General said. 'But at 30 June 2015 the operational vacancy rate was only 4.1 per cent, and this fell to less than 1 percent at 30 October'.
The lack of capacity is impacting more than just the NSW prison system. Over the weekend of 31 October 2015 some inmates held by the NSW Police Force could not be brought before a court because of capacity shortages.
'The Department needs to urgently address the lack of capacity so the justice system can operate as intended. It also needs to ensure its forward planning is good enough to help prevent this situation from reoccurring', the Acting Auditor-General recommended.
This was one of the findings reported in Volume Seven 2015 of the Auditor-General’s Report to Parliament, which covers law and order services provided by the NSW Police Force, Department of Justice, and NSW Trustee and Guardian.
The cost of juvenile detainees in custody continues to significantly increase
The annual cost of a juvenile in custody increased from $237,980 to $355,444 (49.4 percent) between 2010-11 and 2014-15. This is significantly more than the 11.7 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index over the same period.
While there has been a sustained fall in the number of juvenile detainees in custody over the last 5 years, the Department’s spending on detainees in custody has not fallen at the same rate.
'The ratio of full time staff to detainees in custody has increased by over 23 per cent since 2010-11', said the Acting Auditor-General. 'The Department should consider whether the costs of supervising and caring for juvenile detainees are reasonable given the sustained fall in numbers'.
The backlog of cases in the NSW District Criminal Court has almost doubled since 2011
The backlog of cases in the NSW District Court has continued to grow every year since 2011, reaching 1,976 in June 2015. The age of cases has also significantly increased, with cases more than 12 months old increasing by 177 percent, and those older than 24 months more than quadrupling over the last 7 years.
The backlog means more people are held on remand while they wait for trial. In June 2015, the NSW District Court estimated it had approximately 850 such people on remand. 'Based on a daily direct cost of $194 per person, this is estimated to be costing the State $164,900 per day or $60.0 million per year, and is contributing to prison overcrowding', the Acting Auditor-General said.
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