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​New community support to reduce re-offending

Issued: 9 August 2013
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Corrective Services NSW today announced it is moving to provide additional services for offenders released from custody, to reduce reoffending.

The services, to be provided by the non-government sector, will include linking offenders with suitable accommodation, jobs and education, and financial and family services.

Around 10 per cent of offenders have complex needs, including stable accommodation and other support, which can lead directly and indirectly to re-offending if not addressed.

The reforms were developed in response to a review of the Community Offender Support Program (COSP) which delivers emergency short-term housing and support to help some offenders reintegrate after being released from custody.

Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said today the review found that the COSP centres, introduced in 2008, had achieved positive outcomes but overall were costly, inefficient and located in the wrong areas.

On any given day, eight COSP centres around NSW together house around 100 offenders who are then transitioned into stable accommodation – usually within about 50 days.

"These centres are generally less than half full, with an average 44 per cent occupancy rate that makes them costly and unsustainable," Mr Severin said.

"Housing offenders in COSP centres once they are released from prison is significantly more expensive than in custody and this is not a good investment. The average daily cost per inmate in minimum-security custody is $194 compared to $357 in a COSP centre."

In addition to the strong supervision and support already provided by Community Corrections officers, the reforms will add a range of extra services depending on each offender’s needs.

Offenders may receive accommodation support, assistance in developing job search, living and budgeting skills, and help accessing education and transport to ensure they attend programs and appointments.

Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) will now:

  • Launch a tender process for community sector accommodation and support services opening in September/October 2013
  • Discontinue COSP centres at Cooma, Kempsey, Wollongong, Tomago, Penrith and Windsor
  • Retain one COSP centre and outsource the operations of another in the Sydney Metropolitan area to the Non-Government (NGO) sector
  • Provide extra funding to the NGO sector this financial year and more than $3 million in extra funds in 2014/15, and
  • Implement transitional arrangements to provide ongoing and strong offender support until the program becomes fully operational in mid 2014.

"Stable accommodation is known to be crucial to prevent reoffending," Mr Severin said.

"Our new approach provides stable, longer-term accommodation straight away with support services added once the individual is housed. As a result of our reforms we expect to assist even greater numbers in need of transitional help.

"This is all about providing offenders with the tools to reduce their likelihood of reoffending so we can get better community safety results.

"Academics and NGOs have long called for accommodation and resettlement services to be delivered by community groups.

"These groups will work with offenders in custody who are nearing release to place them straight into stable housing, rather than wasting resources on interim COSP centre

It is expected that new jobs will be created in the NGO sector across NSW during the program roll-out.

Mr Severin said CSNSW will work closely with staff affected by the new arrangements across NSW – some of whom may be redeployed into vacant positions.

"I am committed to placing as many staff as possible into vacant positions in Corrective Services NSW," Mr Severin said. "Voluntary redundancy packages will also be offered and a
number of staff members have already expressed interest.

"We value our staff and I will ensure comprehensive support, including retraining and use of the Employee Assistance Program, is available for those who need it."