Reducing reoffending in the prison population
Reduce adult reoffending following release from prison by 5% by 2023.
Why is this important?
Reducing reoffending has become increasingly important given the growing numbers of offenders leaving prison. A small group of persistent offenders, many of whom have multiple and complex needs, are responsible for most serious crimes in NSW. These offenders are the focus of a refreshed strategy aimed at breaking the cycle of reoffending and offending more broadly. Achieving this five percent reduction in reoffending for those who have been to prison will help break the cycle of reoffending, with fewer individuals committing serious crimes such as sexual assault, drug dealing and burglary.
The priority to reduce reoffending was announced in 2019, with a baseline established using reoffending data from prisoners released in 2017. In that year 26.8% of those released from prison reoffended within 12 months; this increased to 29.4% in 2018.
The annual average rate of reoffending within twelve months from prison release has steadily decreased since the former Premier announced the Premier’s Priority in June 2019, with the recidivism rate amongst our most serious offenders reduced to 28.1% in March 2021. 28.8%.
While this sustained reduction is encouraging, the degree of challenge in this priority remains high. In effect the target is 13.8% rather than 5% because of the sharp increase in reoffending between the baseline year (2017) and when the former Premier announced the priority in 2019. If the target was set when the Premier’s Priority was announced in 2019, then the 5% reduction was met in March 2021.
This is not an easy target as the reasons for offending are varied and complex and cannot be addressed by justice agencies alone. Many offenders have lifelong and intergenerational complex needs which depend on other agencies including policing, health, housing, family support, education, employment.
Work is underway to provide effective rehabilitation to reduce the rate of reoffending in NSW. This includes other agencies supporting people who have exited prison and vulnerable people in our community.
What are we doing?
The Department of Communities and Justice is committed to collaborating across the agency to ensure better outcomes in relation to reoffending behaviour in those released from prison.
We are working on ways to ensure that prisons provide an environment that better supports and enables rehabilitation. We are investing in technology and increasing the reach of our programs with a focus on delivering programs and services to those offenders who will benefit most from them. Just some of the initiatives underway include:
Increasing program hours for higher risk offenders:
Increasing program hours for people at the highest risk of reoffending ensures that a greater proportion of this group receive the level of treatment or services that evidence suggests is needed to be effective. It is critical that higher risk offenders, including those serving shorter sentences, receive appropriate support to reintegrate into the community, as well as education, employment, and program opportunities to give them the best chance to not reoffend. We aim to increase the average hours of treatment to 160 hours for 3000 higher risk offenders exiting prison each year however COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on our capacity to deliver programs since March 2020. We have implemented new ways of identifying and referring higher risk offenders into program pathways and innovated in the way we provide services to short-sentenced offenders.
Delivering better programs and continuity of care for people with complex needs
This initiative focuses on women who are parents, and people exiting prison who have a serious mental illness. We are working to address broader issues and strategies to help with the complex needs of people in these two groups.
For people who have serious mental illness, strong collaboration within the Department of Communities and Justice, along with NSW Health including the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, delivers improved case management and planning before release. It also means increased access to, and engagement with, mental health treatment and other supports in the community to improve outcomes after release.
For women who are parents some of the initiatives underway include co-locating child protection workers in all women’s prisons to help address the complex child/parenting issues which can impact reintegration as well as other initiatives to support women and their children, including a new diversionary program.
Delivering a prison environment that enables rehabilitation
As part of building a supportive prison environment that promotes rehabilitation and successful reintegration, we are focusing on increasing constructive interactions people in custody have with staff members that can promote positive change and engagement.
The message for staff is that ‘every contact counts’, and initiatives such as the Five Minute Intervention are being rolled out across all NSW prisons. Developed in the UK, the Five Minute Intervention is a proven approach that helps staff use every interaction they have with people in custody in a positive and motivational way to support rehabilitation. To date more than 3000+ staff have been trained.
Numerous staff training opportunities are also being delivered to increase leadership skills and improve decision-making capabilities in prisons.
Transforming prisoner rehabilitation through digital technology
This initiative aims to leverage off digital technology to transform rehabilitation in prisons. It is anticipated that the digitisation of services and programs will increase intervention opportunities, boost program ‘dosage’, promote self-efficacy, and improve communication with family and friends. Inmates transition back into the community will be assisted, with digital technology helping remove barriers to successful reintegration.
The scheme utilises highly secure devices that have been purpose-built for prison use and run on a secure network. They are tamperproof and allow restricted access to approved websites, services and applications including the Offender Telephone System.
Maintaining contact with family and friends has been positively associated with enhanced prisoner wellbeing and improvements in connectedness and the ability to undertake programs and access services has significant benefits in addressing reoffending patterns and behaviour and supporting reintegration goals.
Visit the ‘Reducing Reoffending’ page to find out more.
13 Sep 2022